Muftic: The power of slogans, for good and evil
In political marketing, successful slogans can determine the winner. Donald Trump’s win was largely due to a visceral and effective use of a slogan, “Make America Great Again.” The most effective slogans inspire people, and give them hope. They can also resonate with their worst fears and prejudices as the racist demonstrators in Charlottesville, Va., illustrated last Saturday.
The slogan the Democratic Party has crafted recently, “A Better Deal,” did not exactly touch my heart. Something that is just relatively better is not a very inspiring goal. One that might be a positive umbrella with wide appeal could be something like “for an America, a land of opportunity.” It promotes Democratic platforms of inclusion, supporting the integrity of democratic institutions and voter rights, a rational immigration policy, and helpful to daily lives of more people from student loan relief and low cost trade schools, raising the minimum age, and affordable access to health care.
Slogans can also be deceptive and difficult to fulfill. Donald Trump’s slogan “ Make America Great Again” was vague enough that voters could imagine their own hopes and fears fitting under the slogan’s umbrella, unless it was more exactly defined. It had an inspirational, nationalistic ring. Fact checkers found he often lied about statistics and examples he cited to support his slogans and he offered few concrete “how and what” plan details to reach those goals. Trumps’s attacks on Clinton’s character and hard line immigration policies fell under the larger Make America Great Again banner with the operative word “again,” a time past which meant to many before women’s lib and the civil rights movement. There are in-depth post election studies that showed racism and sexism motivated a significant number of Trump voters in the 2016 election.
Trump’s economic message was a promise he would make America great again by putting American interests first by going it alone without the burden of multinational agreements and reducing regulatory and tax burdens on business and individuals. We would return again to a nation of manufacturing instead of importing from countries to which we had exported our jobs. His economic message went virtually unchallenged by Clinton, a fatal error, and her slogan, “Stronger together” never quite caught on. Her message strategy was not about togetherness for all. Instead, she appealed to certain demographic segments.
Trump’s sub slogans appealed to white supremacists and he has done little to criticize their use/misuse. Throughout the 2016 campaign and in Charlottesville this past weekend, instead of calling out the KKK, alt-right, and neo-Nazis, he condemned bigotry “on many sides.” This was a glaring example of his continued reluctance in the campaign to say anything specific that would lose racists’ support. White supremacists used another Trump slogan, “Take America Back”, to rally their demonstrators and some wore Trump buttons. Democrats, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), and some other GOP senators strongly and quickly called Trump out for not condemning the supremacists as evil doers. The next morning, an unattributed White House statement did “include” as bigots supremacist organizations by name. On the following Monday, the President himself called racism evil and called out the KKK, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists out by name in a strongly worded statement, to his credit.
Hate slogans provoke hate and threats of violence are met with threats and acts of violence. The only way out of such a vicious circle is for moral, religious and political leaders to point a different way. A contrast with Trump’s initial message was Ronald Reagan’s winning and inspiring 1980 election eve address: “ These visitors to that city on the Potomac do not come as white or black, red or yellow; they are not Jews or Christians; conservatives or liberals; or Democrats or Republicans. They are Americans awed by what has gone before, proud of what for them is still…a shining city on a hill…..”
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