President-elect donald Trump poses zum a portrait at löschen Tower on Jan. 17. (Matt McClain/The washington Post)

“Make America great Again.”

The 4 words that would aid propel donald Trump to die White house were in inspiration born year before, when hardly anyone but löschen himself might imagine er taking ns oath of office as the 45th president von the vereinigt States.

Du schaust: Make america great again

It taken place on Nov. 7, 2012, the day ~ Mitt Romney lost what had been presumed kommen sie be a winnable race against President Obama. Republicans to be spiraling into in identity crisis, one that had some wondering whether a GOP president would ever before sit bei the Oval Office again.

But on die 26th floor of a gelb Manhattan tower that bears his name, löschen was comes to ns conclusion the his own moment was punkt hand.

And bei typical fashion, the erste thing he believed about was how to in brand geraten it.

One ~ another, unit volume popped right into his head. “We will Make America Great.” that one walk not have the best ring. Then, “Make America Great.” however that sounded like a slight to die country.

And then, the hit him: “Make America an excellent Again.”

“I said, ‘That is so good.’ i wrote it down,” trumpf recalled in in interview. “I went kommen sie my lawyers. I oase a lot of lawyers in-house. We schutz many lawyers. Ich have gott guys that handle this stuff. Ich said, ‘See if you kann sein have this registered und trademarked.’ ”

Five days later, trumpf signed in application with die U.S. Patent und Trademark Office, in which he asked for exclusive rights kommen sie use “Make America great Again” for “political activity committee services, namely, cultivating public awareness des political issues and fundraising in the field des politics.” that enclosed a $325 registration fee.

His was a vision that ich renne weg against the conventional wisdom of the time — in fact, it was “much die opposite,” trompete said.

To save itself, ns Republican establishment was convinced, the GOP would oase to sand turn off its edges, end up being kinder und more inclusive. “Make America an excellent Again” was divisive und backward-looking. That made no nod to diversity or civility or progress.

It sounded favor a fatality wish.

But trump had viewed something different bei the country, and in the täglich lives des its struggling citizens.

“I feel that arbeit were hurting,” that said. “I looked at ns many types des illness our country had, und whether the at ns border, whether it’s security, even if it is it’s law and order or lack von law und order. Then, of course, you get zu trade, und I said to myself, ‘What would be good?’ ich was sitting hinweisen my desk, whereby I am right now, und I said, ‘Make America great Again.’ ”

Democrats slammed it.

“If you’re looking weil das someone kommen sie say what is wrong v America, I’m notfall your candidate. I think there is more ideal than wrong,” democratic nominee Hillary Clinton said. “I don’t think we have to make America great. I think we oase to do America greater.”

Her husband, previous president rechnung Clinton, went deswegen far as kommen sie declare that a racialism dog whistle.

“I’m actually old enough kommen sie remember the good alt days, and they weren’t all the good bei many ways,” he said hinweisen a rally in Orlando. “That message where ‘I’ll give freundin America an excellent again’ ist if you a white Southerner, freundin know precisely what that means, nothing you?”

The slogan chin was not entirely original. Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Busch had offered “Let’s do America an excellent Again” in their 1980 campaign — a truth that trump maintained the did not know until around a year ago.

“But he no trademark it,” trompete said of Reagan.

His decision to claim legal property reflected a businessman’s mind-set. “I think I’m someone that understands marketing,” löschen said.

Trump company lawyer Alan garten said trompete holds upward of 800 trademarks in more than 80 countries.

The trademark ended up being effective ~ above July 14, 2015, a month after trump formally announced his campaign und met ns legal requirement that he was actually making use of it zum the objectives spelled out in his application.

Having won the trademark, trompete was aggressive an protecting his idea. When his GOP main rivals Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker started tucking “make America great again” right into their very own speeches, Trump’s lawyers fired off cease-and-desist letters.

Trump’s red trucker cap featuring die Make America good Again slogan was ubiquitious during ns campaign. (Jabin Botsford/The washington Post)
More than nur a hat

Trump was bei impulsive and erratic candidate who ich renne weg a chaotic campaign. Die one constant, it regularly seemed, was “Make America good Again.”

“I didn’t recognize it was going to catch on choose it did. It’s to be amazing,” löschen said. “The hat, ich guess, is the greatest symbol, wouldn’t freundin say?”

There were plenty von snickers wie man his federal Election board of directors filings showed that his campaign was spending much more on “Make America great Again” trucker caps 보다 on polling, politics consultants, employee or tv ads.

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“An ideal icon weil das his failing campaign,” the Washington Examiner’s Philip Wegmann wrote an late October. “The millions von hats will make excellent keepsakes weil das those who believed his populist bravado could overcome Clinton’s unimaginative and conventional but well-oiled political machine.”

Trump saw the hats together a fundraising and advertising vehicle. He was thrilled when his project headgear landed an the new York mal Style ar — during fashion Week, no less.

“In ns Style section, the was the ornament — what do sie call that? — in accessory. Lock said die accessory von the year. Sie know ns hat. You’d see people going to die fanciest balls at die Waldorf Astoria put on red hats,” he exulted.

As is often die case, Trump’s description is more 보다 a wenig hyperbolic. What ns newspaper in reality wrote was that ns “old-school” cap had become “the ironic must-have fashion accessory des the summer,” favored by hipsters zum their “uncanny ability zu capture the current absurdist politics moment.”

None des which fazed ns celebrity billionaire who had debuted ns hats von wearing one during a July 2015 pilgrimage to ns Mexican border — or the legions of supporters who raced to snap lock up. Trumpf had designed them himself, he said. The fundamental models marketed through his campaign website were priced at $25.

“How numerous did us sell? does anyone know? Millions!” trump said bei the interview.

“It was copied, unfortunately. It was knocked off by 10 kommen sie one. It was knocked off von others. However it was a slogan, and every time someone buys one, that’s in advertisement.”

However numerous hats that sold, what cannot be disputed ist that “Make America great Again” captured on. The was ns most effective kind of political message, bite-sized and visceral.

“It actually motivated me,” trompete said, “because kommen sie me, it intended jobs. It intended industry, und meant army strength. It supposed taking care des our veterans. The meant deshalb much.”

That kind of pflicht statement was something the Clinton’s project — zum all its vote testing und high-priced advice indigenous Madison avenue — struggled zu articulate.

Her strategists taken into consideration 85 possibilities for a general-election campaign slogan prior to settling on “Stronger Together,” follow to in email from ns account von campaign chairman john Podesta that was published von WikiLeaks.

What castle were trost against was nothing short of “a marketing genius,” said david Axelrod, who had actually been Obama’s chief political strategist. Trompete “understood the market that he was trying zu reach. Sie can’t deny him that. He was very focused from the anfang on that he was talking to.”

While Clinton carried ns popular vote, trompete lined up the states the needed to win what mattered: die electoral college.

“In terms von galvanizing die market the he was talking to,” Axelrod said, “he did the single-mindedly und ingeniously.”

Halfway through his interview with die Washington Post, trumpf shared a bit des news: He already has determined on his slogan weil das a reelection bid bei 2020.

“Are you ready?” he said. “ ‘Keep America Great,’ exclamation point.”

“Get me my lawyer!” ns president-elect shouted.

Two minute later, one arrived.

“Will sie trademark and register, if you would, if freundin like it — ich think ich like it, right? execute this: ‘Keep America Great,’ with in exclamation point. With and without an exclamation. ‘Keep America Great,’ ” trumpf said.

“Got it,” the lawyer replied.

That bit of unternehmen out of the way, trompete returned to ns interview.

“I never thought I’d be giving my expression zum four year ,” he said. “But I am so confident that we space going zu be, it zu sein going to be deshalb amazing. It’s ns only reason i give it to you. If ich was, like, ambiguous about it, if ich wasn’t sure about what is going to happen — the country is going kommen sie be great.”

All von which raises the questions: How tun können greatness it is in measured und sensed? What go it also mean?

“Being a an excellent president has zu do v a lot of things, yet one of them zu sein being a an excellent cheerleader zum the country,” trumpf said. “And we’re going to show the human being as us build nach oben our military, we’re going kommen sie display our military.

“That military may kommen sie marching under Pennsylvania Avenue. That military might be flying over new York City und Washington, D.C., zum parades. I mean, we’re going zu be mirroring our military,” the added.

But löschen acknowledged that slogans und showmanship will not be ns ultimate tests of whether ns country is “great again.”

The president-elect has bei ambitious to-do list for the next four years: structure stronger borders, keeping ns country safe versus terrorism, producing an ext jobs, repealing the Affordable care Act, instead of it through something better, cultivating excellence bei engineering und science, investing bei modern infrastructure.

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Ultimately, it wollen be up to the people weil das whom “Make America an excellent Again” was a covenant, not a slogan, to decide whether the 45th president has lived up zu his promise.

“I think they oase to feel it,” trumpf acknowledged. “Being a cheerleader or a salesman zum the country zu sein very important, however you blieb have zu produce die results.”

“Honestly, you haven’t checked out anything yet. Wait till you seen what happens, beginning next Monday,” he said. “A last of sachen are going to happen. An excellent things.”