My September column for the Visual Thesaurus, “A Slogan in Every Pot!”, looks at the history of political slogans—from “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too” (1840) to “Build Back Better” (2020).
Full access to the column is restricted to subscribers; here’s an excerpt.
Campaign slogans are “miniature narratives,” says Philip Seargeant, a British linguist and author of The Art of Political Storytelling: Why Stories Win Votes in Post-truth Politics (2020). Successful slogans, he told me in an email, “place the desire for change at their heart, and foreground the need for action to accomplish that change.” Change through action is at the heart of slogans like "Make America Great Again” — Donald Trump's 2016 campaign motto, often compressed into a hashtagged acronym, #MAGA — and “Take Back Control,” a Brexit slogan. “Both use imperatives — ‘make’ ‘take’ — which urge a form of participation from the electorate, and suggest that together some sort of change can be effected in society,” Seargeant says.
“Make America Great Again” was an abbreviated version of the slogan originally used by Ronald Reagan. In 1984, Reagan ran for reelection with the hazy, sunny slogan “It's Morning in America.”
Context matters too, says Seargeant: “A successful slogan will be a mix of the words on the page themselves, plus outside factors which mean these words resonate with a particular mood in society, with the character of the candidate, and with the larger branding of the campaign or movement.”
Read the rest of “A Slogan in Every Pot!”