President-elect Donald Trump has already decided on the slogan for his 2020 bid for re-election. In an interview with The Washington Post published Wednesday, he said that his 2020 slogan will be — wait for it — “Keep America Great!”
If it sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the tagline from The Purge, Election Year, verbatim. Amusingly, in the interview he called in his lawyer to see about copyrighting the phrase. Here’s the the full exchange from the Post:
Halfway through his interview with The Washington Post, Trump shared a bit of news: He already has decided on his slogan for a reelection bid in 2020.
“Are you ready?” he said. “ Keep America Great,’ exclamation point.”
“Get me my lawyer!” the president-elect shouted.
Two minutes later, one arrived.
“Will you trademark and register, if you would, if you like it — I think I like it, right? Do this: ‘Keep America Great,’ with an exclamation point. With and without an exclamation. ‘Keep America Great,” Trump said.
“Got it,” the lawyer replied.
That bit of business out of the way, Trump returned to the interview.
That Trump’s 2020 campaign slogan is identical to the tagline for the third movie in The Purge series isn’t so unsettling when you look at the timeline. There’s a likely explanation: It’s just the next step in a cycle of art imitating life, and life unwittingly imitating art. See, Election Year opened in theaters on July 1, 2016, when “Make American great again” was already on everybody’s lips, with or without irony. Savvy movie marketers priming audiences for the next Purge installment clearly piggybacked off the slogan with “Keep America great,” the tagline for the film.
But back to the film: In an alternate universe, on one night every year, laws are suspended and ultra-violent culture wars break out. People loot, damage property, and murder anyone they please. In Election Year specifically, the future of the annual event is a ballot item with politicians both for and against abolishing it.
Election Year functions as a sharp, if unsubtle, commentary on the current state of political division in America. It reimagines polarization and pent-up frustration within the context of a frightening, dystopian universe.
In that context the words “Keep America Great” are meant to be taken by the audience as darkly ironic criticism, since in the world of The Purge, America is only kept great by the existence of a terrifying and inhumane night of violence.
Over the course of his campaign, Trump unearthed a strain of animosity within the hearts of many Americans that others assumed did not and could not exist.
It’s beyond the pale that something like The Purge could happen in real-life America, but a reality in which Americans only become more divided as Trump’s presidency progresses is far from impossible.