I suspect Clinton and Trump used the same ad agency to come up with their vacuous slogans. Consider this –
- Make America Great Again
- Stronger Together
They’re more or less interchangeable. In fact, Bill Clinton used something similar to “make American great again” back in 1992. As for “stronger together” … what does that mean exactly? Does my stealing your income make us both stronger? It certainly seems as though it makes me fatter and you weaker. How does that make us as a unit (that I haven’t agreed to become, by the way) stronger?
Political slogans are often filled with sound and fury. Growing up in Alaska, I was unfamiliar with the street side political rally where people gather and shout slogans. It just doesn’t happen here. By election season here, it’s not warm enough to stand outside and shout slogans. You just can’t gather a crowd. Some of the more transient members of our community remark on this lack occasionally, but Brad says it’s something you just stop expecting as you become an Alaskan.
But we were at Faneuil Hall in Boston one election season and a bunch of people gathered on the steps there to shout slogans at one another. I could tell they were supporting two opposing candidates, but I knew nothing about them, so the slogans were meaningless. Being the inveterate journalist that I am (and waiting while my husband and sister-in-law were shopping for things I didn’t care about), I mingled with the crowd, made up a magazine and asked folks why they supported the candidate they were supporting. In Alaska (18 years ago), that question would have brought up policy issues, personal character, voting history. There in Boston, the overwhelming answer was that they liked his slogan (the challengers) and he’d been their alderman for years (the incumbent whose supporters couldn’t remember why they’d voted for him in the first place). As far as I could tell, there wasn’t much difference between the slogans. Maybe the challenger’s was a little easier to shout, but I’m not a judge of slogans.
I don’t know for sure that Clinton and Trump’s slogans are completely meaningless to everyone who is shouting them. What strikes me is that they are thoroughly devoid of liberty, which had great meaning to the men (and a few women) who established this country.
Make America Great Again … by abusing people, segregating some and piling on regulations so that we are not able to exercise our liberty.
Stronger Together … by doubling down on regulation and increasing taxes and taking from those who work to give to those who don’t so that we cannot afford to exercise our liberty.
Yeah, utterly lacking in what is important to me.
The Founders’ guiding lights were liberty and equality. When you read their writings, you find very little talk of greatness or strength, let alone togetherness. They assumed that, if the country remained committed to liberty and equality, greatness and strength would emerge. Togetherness was seen as a voluntary choice.
Yeah, their view of equality was a bit different from ours today. Most of the American Founders (the men who put their quills to the Declaration of Independence) were members of what Bernie Sanders would call the evil 1%. Not that anyone was worried about such percentages then. It should be noted that a lot of militiamen were farmers and laborers, not the elite and it was the militias that actually won the war, while Washington’s army mostly lost battles. The late-18th century American understanding of equality meant something very different to the generation that birthed the American Revolution. They were interested in equality in the eyes of God and before the law.
Yeah, they were limited in their understanding. Some of them were slaveholders who clearly didn’t mean equality for everyone. They also didn’t mean liberty for all. Being human, they had flaws and they didn’t know what we know today. Of course, there’s a lot of things that we don’t know now that they knew then. We’re not as smart as we think they are. Being imperfect is a human stain. Despite their flaws (or maybe because of them) they understood the importance of liberty — the right of a man who owned himself to determine for himself how he would live his life and the associations he would join in if he so chose. This is what Patrick Henry meant when he called out “Give me liberty or give me death.”
It’s sad that the 20th century pundits reduced what the Founders believed to a slogan over a minor issue– “No Taxation without Representation.” Reverend Jonathan Mayhew said it in a sermon in 1750 – 25 years before the Revolution. The sentiment was prevalent in the 13 Colonies, but I don’t envision Thomas Jefferson and George Washington shouting those slogans from the steps of Faneuil Hall in 1776. The masses paid little in the way of taxes. No farmer left his fields to go shoot at Brits because he wanted Thomas Jefferson to pay lower taxes. Without the modern propaganda machine, people fought for what was important to them, not the elites. The colonists valued their liberty … the right to own oneself, to own one’s land, to support one’s family … without interference from a government that had no understanding or caring for the needs on the ground in the colonies. They fought for liberty and equality, not for blind adherence to a shouted slogan.
This is what we’ve lost in the country. We may believe that we are so much smarter than earlier generations, but in reality, we segregate ourselves in separate lines to head to the same slaughter house, shouting our pithy little slogans as if they actually meant something.