August 14, 2020

Trump-Pence Slogans

In 2016, the slogan of the Trump-Pence campaign was “Make America Great Again.” The implication was that, in 2016, America had ceased to be great, but that it had been great at some past time. It was never clear when, in the Trump-Pence universe, America was last great, but Democrats concluded that that fabled time was probably the 1950s, when whites were prosperous and blacks knew their place.

This year, somewhat predictably, the GOP slogan is “Keep America Great.” Democrats, of course, believe that the Trump administration has run the nation into the ground, so that “Make America Great Again” could logically be this year’s Democratic slogan. “Keep America Great” is, at best, disingenuous.

I began thinking of possible Trump-Pence slogans that would be scrupulously honest. That’s an unconventional concept for political rhetoric in general and an especially peculiar one for Republicans. But one can have some fun with the concept. I want to offer the GOP some signs that could capture the actual thoughts and intentions of its standard-bearers.

Trump is already trying to label the Democratic ticket as “socialist.” This is absurd. Although the Democratic Party has certainly moved left in recent years, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris hardly represent the far-left wing of the party. We can expect the Republicans to weaponize the “socialist” label. Here’s a possible sign:


One of Trump’s most conspicuous efforts has been the elimination of federal regulations. His administration has also been lax in enforcing existing laws and regulations. The GOP faithful love this stuff, as they have a basic dislike—hatred even—of government. Trump‘s base sees every law or regulation as a limitation on freedom. This will please them:


In 2016, Trump made much of his intention to keep foreigners out of the country. He began his campaign with outrageous charges against Mexicans. This year, the campaign could be equally outrageous but might opt instead for subtlety. This seemingly innocuous sentiment suggests, in the Trump universe, keeping foreigners out and deporting the undocumented people already here:


Trump had planned to be able to boast of a prosperous economy in the 2020 campaign. It was always questionable how much Trump was responsible for a strong economy, and fate dealt the president a nasty blow. The economy, as a result of the ongoing pandemic and the administration’s failure to deal with it effectively, has been sent into the toilet with little prospect of improvement in time to be of much help to the GOP ticket. Trump cannot brag about the financial health of the country, but he can assert that the economy is more important than, say, the health of school pupils:


Trump not only values the economy over the health of Americans (and especially of children, who don’t vote) but he also values economic health over the environment and the regulations intended to protect it. Many Trump supporters would resonate to this message:


The Trump administration has been characterized by disdain for competence. Cabinet secretaries have been selected for their political contributions rather than for their subject-area knowledge and experience. Trump’s disdain was even more in evidence as he dealt with (or failed to deal with) the pandemic. The president has refused to pay attention to medical and scientific experts. Instead, he seems to believe that he is the world’s greatest expert on every conceivable subject. Alas, America has always supported an anti-intellectual strain that can make a virtue of Trump’s dislike of experts:


Black Lives Matter demonstrations have given Trump an opportunity to bring out the ever-popular law and order Republican theme:


Black Lives Matter also suggests a more obviously racist slogan. Alter all, in Republican voting, black lives really do not matter:


A surprising initiative from the Trump administration is the campaign against mail-in voting. Given that Trump himself votes by mail, this effort is decidedly insincere. The strangest component of this crusade has been the attack on the United States Postal Service. The Trump-Pence ticket could try to minimize the significance of the anti-USPS effort:


Trump believes in family, albeit only his own. He could claim otherwise, suggesting a softer side of the president. This suggests:


Trump came into office arguing that we should have more friendly relations with Russia. Even President Obama attempted to “reset” U.S.-Russia relations, after all. Trump’s studied avoidance of ever saying a negative word about Russia or Vladimir Putin and his willingness to accept Putin’s word over that of his own intelligence services has been incomprehensible. This suggests a slogan that perhaps not even his most ardent supporters will fully appreciate:


Trump has eagerly taken credit for positive developments, even if his actions have not been the cause of them. (The rising stock market is one of his favorite “accomplishments.”) On the other hand, he seems incapable of taking responsibility for negative events or for actions that have the potential to turn out poorly. For example, rather than taking charge of the production and distribution of personal protective equipment needed by medical and other workers, he left the matter to governors. Those governors found themselves outbidding one another for PPE. Here is one slogan that certainly captures the Trump philosophy of governance, but it might not be popular, even with the true Trump believers:


We are unlikely to see any of these proposed Trump-Pence slogans, with the possible exception of “Law & Order.” It is worth thinking about what honest slogans of the GOP ticket might be. As Trump literally lies more often than he tells the truth, however, honesty will not be much in evidence in the 2020 presidential campaign.

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