With less than a week remaining until the election, Donald Trump is stuck being cast as the villain in a “Looney Tunes” short. He takes comical beatdowns over and over—Wham! Taxes! Bam! Russia!—getting no closer to his quarry, restored to health in an instant only to be walloped again in the next scene.
The president’s polling averages remain fixed in a narrow band despite the frenetic news cycle: down 10-12 in approval, down 7-10 points head-to-head with Joe Biden, and essentially tied in almost every swing state. Yet his supporters throng to the same raucous rallies as they did in 2016 and voters narrowly expect Trump to win.
The president’s behavior evinces no doubts or reflections about his place in the race. But make no mistake: he has walked, cartoon style, over the cliff. And next week, he will be forced to finally look down.
The stakes are enormous. The Democrats have readied a succession of anvils to let fall upon our heads. Ending the filibuster, packing the courts, admitting D.C. and Puerto Rico to tilt the Senate, restricting religious liberty, and neutering the Second Amendment all are on the menu—and four years of Trump have only whetted their appetite.
Nor does the final stretch of the campaign seem to offer much hope. Trump’s rhetorical punches haven’t landed. Demographic change has eroded his base. Nostalgia for a stabler time has given Biden an edge with elderly voters. And Trump faces a chasmic spending deficit (his campaign is already cutting back advertising) and a torrent of negative coverage, with social media platforms giving Biden an extra lift.
To preserve his chances, Trump needs a powerful, novel message to carry his campaign through the home stretch.
A Republic, If You Can Keep it Great
Make America Great Again is the most iconic political slogan in modern memory. It electrified listeners with its promise and redolence. To some it meant the reopening of the mill a town over; to others, it meant no longer needing to keep naloxone in the glove compartment. But to millions, it meant something broader: a return to the America of the past, with high social trust and strong civic institutions, when people had faith and mercy and knew their neighbors, and things were . . . dare we say ‘great’?
But the same evocative power of Make America Great Again assures a brutish and short life for its bastard son Keep America Great. Because Keep America Great suggests that this, this, is the greatness to which we aspired a return. With blue-haired liberals ruling our streets, canceling our TV shows, and hounding us out of our jobs.
With a bureaucracy that can’t create a simple PCR test at a critical juncture, and officials who lie to the public with breathtaking arrogance. With a public sphere dominated by those intent on repudiating the promise of “All men are created equal” and “By the content of their character” in favor of a critical race theory induced murder-suicide. No, Keep America Great can escape in good faith only the lips of the lumpentrumper.
A new slogan is needed, and fast. Like MAGA, it must be succinct. It must build on ideas already percolating in the conservative consciousness. It must be evocative. It must be able to mean different things to different people. To do all that, it will, at first, likely sound vacuous or derivative (as MAGA of course was). But upon repeat utterances, it will bear out its promise and rhetorical power, and be known by its fruit.
Free at Last?
I move that the slogan should be “Keep America Free.” Keep America Free.
Try it out. Roll it around a little. It’s fresh, it’s righteous, it can be chanted. It describes the stakes: a victory for Biden and the Left will substantially harm freedom in our country.
Unlike “Keep America Great,” Keep America Free can be clearly tied to actual policy initiatives for a second term. It also allows Trump to position himself as the champion of the two-thirds of Americans who believe political correctness has gone too far (a consistent finding over many years).
By positioning himself as the defender of freedom, Trump also highlights the alliances Biden has formed with those who seek to limit our freedoms, including Antifa, Big Tech and the woke-scolds in every department, every PTA board, and, increasingly, every religious congregation in our land.
Keep America Free should be paired with the announcement of “The Freedom Agenda,” which should consist of a bare handful of policies, all easily understood and relevant to Americans’ daily lives, to counteract the corrosive soft totalitarianism of the Left. Though these policies all inherently pose both constitutional and philosophical questions about the nature of speech and tolerance, such complications need not be acknowledged in Republican messaging at this late hour (though they must be carefully weighed in any post-2020 implementation phase).
Potential key policies might include:
- Banning workplace and hiring discrimination on the basis of political activities or beliefs.
- Amending Section 230 to require social media companies to be politically evenhanded.
- Making it a labor law violation to fire someone specifically due to public pressure.
- Requiring all government contractors and universities receiving public funds to end hiring and admissions discrimination on the basis of race.
- Pledging to sue and cut funding to jurisdictions that refuse to police violent mobs.
This package offers, at long last, a positive message for Trump that may resonate with much of the American public, especially after a summer where the Left ran amok and terrorized millions. It also plays to Trump’s strengths as an icon of resistance to political correctness and a speaker of repressed truths.
(Plenty of related Twitter-ready slogans come to mind as well. “End Political Correctness!” “End Affirmative Action!” “Restore Freedom of Speech!” “Unbias Big Tech!”)
This message would be a much stronger closer than “Keep America Great,” but also likely a surer bet than continued negative hits on Biden. Nothing has stuck to the former vice president so far—not age and manifest disability, not corruption and foreign entanglement, not hair-sniffing and shoulder-grabbing. This is largely because the liberal press seems to have learned from 2016 not to conduct even cursory investigations into potential scandals ensnaring a Democratic standard bearer.
No matter what evidence of improprieties turn up on Biden, no marquee reporting will be done on it (as was done with, say, the Clinton Foundation), and no bandwidth will be given to it (except as “Republicans pounce” stories). Sure, the press still believes in the words “all the news that’s fit to print”—they’ve just rearranged them a little to “print all the news that fits.”
Keep America Free, like MAGA, allows listeners to project onto it what they will. The Evangelical and Second Amendment constituencies, for example, will understand “free” as protecting religious liberty and guns. Others, like opponents of lockdowns and vaccines, will be able to read in a general thread of support that need not be made explicit in GOP messaging. Some of the less politically minded may simply be swayed by a platitudinous message of “freedom” (certainly a positive term), even if they think no deeper about it.
Finally, should Trump fail, the Right will need a message to carry itself onwards. Many have begun to cohere around something like the aforementioned Freedom Agenda (inveighing against Section 230 and government-funded critical race theory training has become a standard for GOP Senate up-and-comers). But giving it a name makes it more tangible and intelligible to the common man, the same way labels like “pro-life” and “pro-choice” provide easy mental access to an “off the shelf” political position.
So let’s do it. Let’s spread the word. Let’s tell it on the mountaintop, to Trump, to the party, to the caucus, until it’s adopted. Let’s spread it in church these next two Sundays. Let’s make it trend. Let’s Keep America Free.
Henry Freeman is the pseudonym of a patriot who graduated from a mostly unpatriotic university and works in a mostly unpatriotic profession. He hopes to publish under his real name should the Freedom Agenda come to fruition. He enjoys country music, the outdoors and the simple, timeless pleasures of family life.