Make America Great Again

"Make America Great Again", often abbreviated as MAGA or #MAGA, is a campaign slogan used in American politics that originated with the President Ronald Reagan 1980 presidential campaign. President Donald Trump subsequently adopted the slogan, which he then used in his 2016 presidential campaign.

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President Ronald Reagan's 1980 presidential campaign poster
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A button from Reagan's 1980 presidential campaign
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Trump's MAGA sign used during his 2016 presidential campaign

Original uses

It was first used in Ronald Reagan's 1980 presidential campaign, when the United States was suffering from a worsening economy at home marked by stagflation. Using the country’s economic distress as a springboard for his campaign, Reagan used the slogan to stir a sense of patriotism among the electorate. The slogan was also used by former President Bill Clinton in his 1992 presidential campaign, although he later criticized the phrase as being a racist dog whistle during the 2016 election.

2016 Trump campaign

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Donald Trump wearing a Make America Great Again hat during his 2016 campaign.

In December 2011, Trump made a statement in which he said he was unwilling to rule out running as a presidential candidate in the future, explaining "I must leave all of my options open because, above all else, we must make America great again". At the time it was not used as a slogan.

Trump began using the slogan formally on November 7, 2012, the day after Barack Obama won his reelection against Mitt Romney. He first considered "We Will Make America Great", but did not feel like it had the right "ring" to it. "Make America Great" was his next name, but upon further reflection, he felt that it was a slight to America because it implied that America was never great. After selecting "Make America Great Again", Trump immediately had an attorney register it. (Trump later said that he was unaware of Reagan's use in 1980 until 2015, but noted that "he didn't trademark it".) On November 12 he signed an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office requesting exclusive rights to use the slogan for political purposes. It was registered as a service mark on July 14, 2015, after Trump formally began his 2016 presidential campaign and demonstrated that he was using the slogan for the purpose stated on the application.

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Banner displaying "Vote To Make America Great Again" on a roadside in California shortly after the November 2016 election.

During the campaign, Trump often used the slogan, especially by wearing hats emblazoned with the phrase in white letters. The slogan was so important to the campaign that it spent more on making the hats – sold for $25 each on its website – than on polling, consultants, or television commercials; the candidate claimed that "millions" were sold. Following Trump's election, the website of his presidential transition was established at greatagain.gov. The president stated in January 2017 that the slogan of his 2020 reelection campaign would be "Keep America Great!", immediately ordering a lawyer to trademark it.

Use by others

In politics

After Donald Trump popularized the use of the phrase, the phrase and modifications of it became widely used to refer to his election campaign and his politics. Trump's primary opponents, Ted Cruz and Scott Walker, began using "Make America Great Again" in speeches, inciting Trump to send cease-and-desist letters to them. Trump claimed after the election that the hats "were copied, unfortunately. It was knocked off by 10 to one ... but it was a slogan, and every time somebody buys one, that's an advertisement". Cruz later sold hats featuring, "Make Trump Debate Again", in response to Trump's boycotting the Iowa January 28, 2016 debate.

In art, entertainment, and media

The most widespread use of the phrase and its variants were in media, especially television comedies. For example:

  • In the South Park episode "Where My Country Gone?" (2015), supporters of Mr. Garrison, who runs a campaign that is a parody of Trump's, are seen holding signs bearing the slogan.
  • John Oliver spoofed the slogan in a segment of his show, urging viewers to "Make Donald Drumpf Again" in reference to the original name of Trump's ancestors. The segment broke HBO viewership records, garnering 85 million views.
  • Comedian David Cross' stand-up tour "Making America Great Again" and Fall Out Boy's remix album Make America Psycho Again also referenced the slogan.
  • WWE star Darren Young and former star Bob Backlund began appearing on WWE TV in May 2016 with Backlund acting as Young's life coach, promising to "Make Darren Young Great Again".
  • The slogan was also modified for use in commercial contexts such as film posters and advertisements. The tagline for the film, The Purge: Election Year, was "Keep America Great" (also the slogan for Trump's aforementioned reelection campaign), included on posters and faux election promos.
  • In September 2016, The Berrics released the campaign series, "Make EA Skate Again", urging Electronic Arts to develop Skate 4.
  • The General Mills campaign, "Smugglaroos", which encourages Canadians to bring Dunk-a-roos to America, where the product has been discontinued, has the slogan "Make America Dunk Again".

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