"Let's Make America Great Again" was first used in President 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.
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". Two months earlier, Roger Stone, Trump's longtime political advisor and a veteran of Reagan's 1980 campaign, tweeted the slogan: "Make America Great Again --TRUMP HUCKABEE 2012 #nomormons".
Trump himself 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.
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, which soon became popular among his supporters. 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.
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. Emmanuel Macron, President of France since mid May 2017, rebuked US-President Trump over withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement. The last sentence of the speech delivered by him was "make our planet great again!"
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.
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.
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