‘Stronger together’: Why Trump’s Theft Of Hillary Clinton’s Slogan Is Tradition

By Matthew Cantor in Oakland

Donald Trump’s latest slogan might sound a bit familiar.

On Tuesday, the Republican party tweeted a portrait of the president gazing upward, squinting, with his hand aloft, as if he were petting a beloved horse visible only to very stable geniuses. Emblazoned behind him are the words: “We’re only getting stronger together.” The quote is credited to one Donald J Trump – but another former presidential candidate noticed some similarities to her own 2016 slogan.

Now copy my plan on health care, a fairer tax system, and voting rights. https://t.co/AGyA6ZHl1Rhttps://t.co/OuFklznJgf — Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) February 12, 2019

Borrowing lines from prominent Democrats is, of course, nothing new for the Trumps. And it’s not the first time the president has apparently lifted a campaign slogan. “Make America Great Again” was a hit back in the 80s for Ronald Reagan, though he missed out on a marketing opportunity by failing to put it on a hat. “America first” has been around for more than a century, used by presidents such as Warren G Harding and Woodrow Wilson. It also has deep and disturbing roots in the history of American racism, as Sarah Churchwell has detailed.

But “stronger together” marks the first time the president has trumpeted the very slogan of a former political opponent, even as he continues to disparage her at rallies.

What can we expect future Trump yard signs to include? “Donald Trump: I’m with her”? “Trump-Pence: building a bridge to the 21st century”? “Trump 2020: carry on with Roosevelt”?

To be fair, the current president is far from the only one to recycle a slogan :

  • Abraham Lincoln told voters not to change horses in midstream. Seventy-two years later, Franklin Roosevelt did, too. The slogan apparently worked for both of them: voters stayed in the saddle and remained dry.
  • Decades after Harding and Wilson, Pat Buchanan reused “America first” in 1992; in 2008, John McCain used the remarkably similar “Country first”, though he did not specify which country.
  • Mitt Romney claimed “Obama isn’t working”, which sounds a lot like “Labour isn’t working”, from Britain in the 1970s. Except, as Mark Mardell pointed out at the BBC, Romney’s version loses the pun. What’s more, Obama was indisputably working, in the literal sense – he was employed as the president.
  • Obama isn’t innocent of slogan reuse, either. “Change,” or some variation on it, is a longtime opposition favorite.
  • The four-time New York governor Alfred Smith was so bold as to subtly borrow Abraham Lincoln’s celebrated nickname. His slogan was: “ Honest. Able. Fearless. ”
  • In some cases, this general lack of imagination has caused presidents to simply plagiarize themselves. Dwight Eisenhower, for instance, had a hit with “I like Ike”. His second time around, it seems the ideas had dried up. He went with “ I still like Ike ”.

In other words, the US is grappling with a longstanding slogan shortage – and there are roughly 15,000 Democratic 2020 candidates in need of a catchphrase. So far, they’ve gone pretty generic: Kamala Harris is “for the people”; Julián Castro is offering: “One nation. One destiny.”

As Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand and others solidify their own, they might want to look to some of history’s weirder examples in an effort to stand out – such as Lyndon Johnson’s “In your guts, you know he’s nuts”, a response to Barry Goldwater’s “In your heart, you know he’s right”. Or William McKinley’s alarmingly honest (and successful) “Leave well enough alone”.

For any Democrat currently seeking a slogan, here’s a humble suggestion: “Keeping you sane until AOC can run.”

This article provided by NewsEdge.