Times Are So Bad in America, All the Old Campaign Slogans Still Fit

Campaign slogans tend to focus on a single issue, such as an underperforming economy, crime, national security, or the likability of the candidate. But this election cycle is different.

The current administration has opened our borders, shredded the value of a dollar, ballooned the debt, undermined America’s credibility abroad, turned a blind eye to crime, and abused the justice system—all at once—giving candidates running for office at any level a wealth of sloganeering opportunities.

And there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. For instance, you can see a smorgasbord of options just by looking at winning presidential campaigns going back to World War II. Not all the lines below were official campaign slogans; some were turns of phrase that arose organically and happened to define their times. Unfortunately, pretty much any of them also define our times.

The Buck Stops Here (Truman)

This might make for a good inflation-related commercial outside a dollar store if they weren’t all going out of business. Originally, it was about accountability, however, which never goes out of style. Until you get elected, of course.

I Like Ike (Eisenhower)

If your name is Mike, go for it. If not, you can always promise what helped elect Dwight Eisenhower to a second term: “Peace and Prosperity.” Both are lacking these days.

A Time for Greatness (Kennedy)

The Greeks have a word, kakistocracy, which means government by the worst among us. If that doesn’t describe the current state of affairs in Washington, D.C., I don’t know what does.

America Needs a Change (Goldwater)

This line was not from the winning campaign, but the idea is evergreen. Besides, as with “I Like Ike,” Lyndon Johnson’s winning campaign slogan, “All the Way with LBJ,” doesn’t work unless your name is Ray (and these days, I wouldn’t recommend such a turn of phrase). Of course, you could go with Barry Goldwater’s more famous slogan, “In Your Heart, You Know He’s Right,” or frame your opponent with LBJ’s retort: “In Your Guts, You Know He’s Nuts.”

Law and Order (Nixon)

At the 1968 Republican convention, Richard Nixon used the promise of law and order to appeal to “the great majority of Americans, the forgotten Americans, the non-shouters, the non-demonstrators.” Yep, that was 1968, not 2024. Four years later, he went with “Now, More Than Ever.” Both shoes again fit.

A Leader, for a Change (Carter)

Jimmy Carter used the above slogan as well as “Why Not the Best?” and “Not Just Peanuts.” All three work in their own way; the last one referring to what average Americans wish they could still afford.

Are You Better Off Than You Were Four Years Ago? (Reagan)

This one speaks for itself. As does Ronald Reagan’s reelection slogan, “It’s Morning in America Again.” The night has gone on long enough.

Kindler, Gentler Nation (Bush No. 41)

A bit of a stretch these days, but we can always hope. Just don’t say anything beginning with, “Read my lips …” That didn’t work out so well.

It’s the Economy, Stupid (Clinton)

It is the economy, stupid. Again.

Compassionate Conservatism (Bush No. 43)

The only problem with this slogan was its presumption that conservatism needed an assist. There’s nothing more compassionate than preserving, protecting, and defending what makes for human flourishing.

Change We Can Believe In (Obama)

This year’s presidential race is a faceoff between two people who have already held the office, so their likelihood of success can be evaluated based on records, not rhetoric. I can’t see either one using this slogan, however, and you might want to stay away from it as well. The country is still smarting from the last time we heard it.

Make America Great Again (Trump)

The former president aims to “Make America Great Again” again. If you count Reagan’s original use of the slogan in 1980, this year’s campaign is the third iteration, so it’s “Make America Great Again. Again. Again.” But MAGAAA may be a little much (and doesn’t fit so well on a cap).

As you can see, candidates running for office in these tumultuous times have a lot of options. Let’s hope they use them to good effect so we can turn things around soon. Otherwise, slogans going even further back will again become relevant: If the bug-eaters at the World Economic Forum have their way, any candidate that promises “A Chicken in Every Pot” will get my vote.

We publish a variety of perspectives. Nothing written here is to be construed as representing the views of The Daily Signal.



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