Summary: Continuing our discussion of ways to reform America, today we look at slogans. Why they’re important, both in gaining support and forcing us to a deeper understanding of what we’re doing. It has the virtue of practicality, although it’s not as much fun as insulting our foes, imagining the Magic Law that Reforms America, or dreaming of the great day when we arise in revolt.
- The political slogan
- My recommendation
- Effective slogans from history
- For More Information
A frequent complaint in the comments of the FM website (one of the most frequent complaints) is the lack of posts providing solutions to the political problems besetting America. Yet the dozens of posts about doing so (the mechanics) get little traffic and few comments. What few there are suggest that the described process is too long and difficult. We want the fast, easy. A simple program or magic law, then something happens, then REFORM!
Today we look at key part of the political process: creating the slogan.
(2) The political slogan
An effective political slogan conveys an idea in few word, ideally an idea that creates a strong intellectual and emotional resonance in its target audience. It acts as a lens focusing an often-complex political program into a simple construct upon which the entire group can agree.
The process also works in reverse. The process of boiling down a complex program into something easily communicated to a mass audience — culminating in slogans — forces deeper understanding of both goals and means (slogans describe both goals and means).
(3) My nominee for a slogan about the reform of America
We will set fire to the rain.
This is enigmatic, open-ended, provocative, and loaded with unseen meaning. It points to sunny days beyond the storms that loom over the horizon, but that we know will soon hit us. It describes neither the goals or the means, but directly confronts the magnitude of the task — since we do not yet know how to set fire to the rain. (The 2011 song “Set Fire to the Rain” is by Adele. See the lyrics here. See a video here.)
This is America, and we’ve accomplished similarly improbably feats in the past. To take the first steps we need only confidence that we can build a better America. We merely need confidence that we can rely on each other — on the American people.
(4) Slogans from history
We can learn from political movements before us. Perhaps these will give you ideas about reforming America — what it means, how to do it, and how to sell it to our fellow citizens. These are from Wikipedia.
“When the people shall have nothing more to eat, they will eat the rich.”
— attributed to Jean-Jacques Rousseau
“Take off your banners the reactionary slogan “a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work” and instead inscribe upon your banner the revolutionary watchword: “the abolition of the wages system”.”
— Karl Marx in Value, Price and Profit (1865)
“The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workers of the world, unite!”
-– Karl Marx in The Communist Manifesto (1848)
“All power to the Soviets”
— A Bolshevik slogan on the eve of the October 1917 Russian revolution. Recycled by 1960s Leftists in the west as “Power to the people“
“Lieber tot als rot” (“Better dead than Red”)
— Coined by the NAZIs during WW2, and after WW2 used by conservatives in America.
“Bigger cages! Longer chains!”
— Anarchist slogan mocking use of the political demand
“Deeds Not Words”
— Slogan of the UK suffragette group Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU)
“Each for all and all for each”
– Tariff Reform League (1905)
“Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer” (“One people, one empire, one leader”)
“Every Man a King”
– Louisiana Governor Huey Long’s slogan advocating wealth and income redistribution. Introduced in 1934, it was part of a broader program which had the slogan “Share Our Wealth“.
“Fifty-Four Forty or Fight”
– Slogan used in 1846 by Democrats who claimed all of Oregon Country for the United States
“Führer befiehl, wir folgen dir!” (“The Führer commands, we follow!”)
— from the song “Von Finnland bis zum Schwarzen Meer”
“Hasta la Victoria Siempre” (“Until the Eternal Victory”)
– Slogan of Che Guevara, with which he’d end his letters.
“Heim ins Reich” (“Back home into the Reich”)
— Slogan for the NAZI program to return areas with ethnic Germans into the German Reich (e.g., Austria, Sudetenland, Danzig).
“Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité” (“Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”)
“¡Una, Grande y Libre!” (“One, Great and Free!”)
— A Francoist-era slogan from Spain
“Venceremos” (“We will overcome, We shall Triumph”)
– Slogan associated with the Cuban Revolution, and socialism in Latin America (e.g., in the unofficial national anthem of Chile during the period leading up to the 1973 coup.
“We are the 99%”
– Slogan of the 2011 Occupy Wall Street protests.
“Wir sind das Volk” (“We are the people”)
— Slogan of the “Monday demonstrations” that led to the fall of the East German State.
“War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”
— National motto of Oceania in 1984
(5) For More information: Posts about reforming America
(a) Steps to reforming America:
- The sure route to reforming America
- A third try: The First Step to reforming America
- The second step to reforming America
- The third step to reforming America, with music
- How to recruit people to the cause of reforming America
- Swear allegiance to the truth as a step to reforming America
(b) Other posts about reforming America:
- Fixing America: the choices are elections, revolt, or passivity, 18 August 2008
- The project to reform America: a matter for science or a matter of will?, 16 March 2010
- Can we reignite the spirit of America?, 14 September 2010
- The sure route to reforming America, 16 November 2010
- Should we despair, giving up on America?, 5 May 2012
- We are alone in the defense of the Republic, 5 July 2012
- The bad news about reforming America: time is our enemy, 27 June 2013
- Why the 1% is winning, and we are not, 26 July 2013
- Understand our problem before you prescribe a cure for America. We’ve gone mad., 17 September 2013
- In “Network”, Howard Beale asks us to get mad and do something. He’s still waiting., 19 October 2013
- The missing but essential key to building a better America, 21 November 2013
(c) Posts about music and revitalizing America:
- A great artist died today. We can gain inspiration from his words., 26 June 2009 — About the Man in the Mirror
- The New America needs a new national anthem! Here’s my nomination., 24 November 2012
- Listen to hear the state of America (and its cure) explained in song, 8 February 2013
- The third step to reforming America, with music, 3 September 2013
20 thoughts on “Writing a good slogan is a key to reforming America”
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I think this gets it exactly right.
But there must be something bigger behind the slogan. People criticized Mr. Obama back in the day for having an empty slogan (‘change’) with nothing behind it, but this was not really true. When he said ‘change’ most folks had an idea of what kind of changes were being talked about. I do not think so many would feel betrayed or disillusioned now if there was nothing but one word for them to feel disillusioned with. Change was supposed to happen and it didn’t. The President has failed to live up to his own vision, and everyone knows it.
Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream Speech” sets a good standard for this type of project. Today it is remembered, over used, and abused because it is such a good example of how to do it right. King did not limit himself to slogans; he also did not delve deeply into particular policy reforms. Instead, he painted a picture of the kind of society was worth striving for. His was a call to action – but it was more than that. It was call to create a certain kind of America. It was a call to make his vision a reality.
I think you will find this a common thread that runs through America’s famous orations and proclamations. Had Daniel Webster just drubbed Robert Haynes on the senate floor with parliamentary tricks and a debater’s keen wits, nothing would have came of it. It was only by tying the rather narrow topics of the debate to his sweeping vision for America (“Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable!”) that his words became ‘God-like’ and immortal. So too does the Declaration of Independence – a document that is, at its base, list of fairly technical complaints – become a compelling rallying cry only after it presents a broad vision of what kind of government accords with Nature’s Laws and Nature’s God.
Meaningful reform starts with the vision. The vision is what unifies us; it is difficult to work together if we lack a common idea of what we are working for. The best slogans are really just bite sized distillations of these visions; detailed policy reforms are nothing more than the ideals of the vision applied to present problems. Vision is what motivates people to do great things. Slogans that do not reflect a broader vision ring hollow; policies that are not extensions of a vision seem scattered, meaningless, or too wonkish for general interest.
I would suggest that – at the level of the grass roots – American politics is really just a contest between two visions. The Democrat’s base has a fairly specific and coherent vision for what kind of society they want America to be. The same is true for Republican’s base. These visions do not always agree – increasingly, they disagree. The issues that get the most air time are the issues that are most clearly connected to each faction’s vision for the future. (The oligarchs knows this fact and use it to their advantage to get their own agenda enacted. Distract the proles with magic shows in front whilst looting them from behind). Other issues get shunted to the side line, to be dissected only by wonks and nerds. Visionless reforms will be ignored.
Creating a compelling vision for America – one that is independent of narrative left or right – is the greatest challenge facing the would be reformers of America. In can be done. As many of the quotations in the body of this post show, it has been done before. But it is hard. It is much easier to define our cause by what we are against. And that can be useful, if the enemy looms large enough. But the enemy has to loom pretty large for this to motivate the man on the street. And even then people need something worth fighting for.
How about “Strength through unity”?
Alternatively, “Shop till you drop.”
If memory serves — and it usually does — “strength through unity” was actually one of the slogans used during “The Wave” (or at least the 1981 television dramatization of it). “The Wave” is based on a true story and depicts an experiment conducted by a high school teacher in Palo Alto in 1969 designed to help his students develop a better understanding of why and how Adolf Hitler succeeded in persuading the German people to support him.
Among the great slogans is “Strength through Joy” — the name of the NAZI youth organization.
My suggested slogan: Follow our Founding Fathers’ steps.
Oh, you mean we should murder lots of indigineous people, refuse women the vote, and own slaves? Hmm….not quite sure that’ll work in the 21st century…
While accurate, I consider that a bit harsh.
The Founders were just people (not just men, as I include women such as Abigail Adams). So they had the usual quota of darkness in their lives.
But their heritage to us is a system that while imperfect is extraordinary, and ideals that inspire us even today. That is what we should remember, IMO.
There Is Another Way
I think Charles hit the nail on the head.
Many problems we experience as Americans – healthcare costs, income inequality, government overreach, infrastructure decay, have already been successfully addressed by many other nations in ways that we could emulate. Even with more intractable problems like runaway monetary policy and finance sector, the cult of ignorance and anti-intellectualism, and what I see as unreasonably hateful attitudes between people of different cultural and income groups, it’s hard to believe we’ve travelled down every possible road and decided this is the best one.
We shouldn’t settle for the evils of our world just because we don’t individually or collectively have enough experience to know if there is a better alternative.
There’s another way, a better way.
“Many problems we experience as Americans – healthcare costs, income inequality, government overreach, infrastructure decay, have already been successfully addressed by many other nations in ways that we could emulate.”
Exactly. That’s the key to understanding our problems, as I have said so many times.
Correct diagnosis must precede a cure. Until we know why we have not adopted obvious solutions proved by our peers, there’s no point in discussing other solutions.
“There Is Another Way”
Yes! Maybe not the catchiest, and maybe too easy to co-opt or misinterpret the wrong way, but definitely an idea that could use a big push.
The concept of examining the practices of other countries (or cities/states/non-political organizations), if accepted, it could legitimize discussion of all kinds of topics that are now off limits.
“Give us this day our employment.
And forgive us our financial debts,
As we forgive our financial debtors.”
Mathew 6:11,12 Inflation
“Debt jubilee every 7 years”= Inflation
Canceling debts is the same as default (merely initiated by someone other than the debtor). Both are deflationary in effect (i.e., a push towards deflation, not themselves deflation). This is basic economics, explained here.
Expansion of credit is inflationary, ceteris paribus.
That you write about economics while largely ignorant of it does not “just happen”, but results from the powerful campaign of disinformation to propagate faux economics. It’s a program to make us ignorant. You are a living testimony to its success, and a warning to the rest of us.
I am open to dialogue not to discussion based on extreme opinions without cultural honesty, Mr. Moore.
First you have to refer to the history contest of that period; second, Washington, Franklin and several other ones didn’t do any notable action against the native (after them, the USA started to copy European behavior as it is obvious, they had the same DNA right?); third, what do you do now for my fellow American Indian brothers?
I support NCAI, NMAI and IACA and you? So, less demagogy and ideology, more good facts based on these principles. I suppose you are an American citizen, me not.
Thank you for your comment.
I regret to say that the policy of stealing the Indians’ land and forcing them westward had its roots in the beginning.
For details see the Wikipedia entry on a Jefferson and Indians. Excerpt:
Still the Bill of Rights and you Constitution are actual and applicable. These are their steps, then, if someone of them betrayed those principles, he betrayed himself. Today USA is going too far away from those principles because the multinational corporations are governing, not the president neither the people, too much far from understanding. Please, read John Loftus and you will understand better what I mean.
I agree about the larger legacy of the Founders. We need to see both sides of them, and try to build upon the best parts.
Now we agree, good night from Rome, Italy.
“Repeal Lewis Powell Memo”
“One Flesh and blood person one vote”
“Corporations are not Persons”