Perhaps the most known slogan by the Donald Trump presidential campaign, 2016 is Make America great again.

Has he made any public statement exactly what period in history he considered that the United States was great?

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    The "Make America great again" slogan is just that, a slogan. You're not supposed to be dissecting it like you would dissect a policy or piece of legislation. Asking for a specific date of when America was "great" is arbitrarily pointless.
    – user3165
    Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 19:58
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    @AxiomaticNexus -- Despite supporting Trump, I agree that it's merely a slogan with 0 truth to it. However, he's been under some flak due to it, which I don't understand why because Bill Clinton said it a few times himself with no repercussion.
    – user8806
    Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 20:04
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – yannis
    Commented Jan 29, 2017 at 10:12
  • @AxiomaticNexus Exactly. It's a trite, meaningless expression. Can we make up such expressions and use them to fire up a crowd for our favorite politician? Yes, we can.
    – reirab
    Commented Feb 15, 2017 at 0:05

3 Answers 3


I believe that this CNN article perfectly answers your question.

This New York Times article quoted him:

Asked when he thought American power had been at its peak, Mr. Trump reached back 116 years to the turn of the 20th century, the era of another unconventional Republican, Theodore Roosevelt, who ended up leaving the party. His favorite figures in American history, he said, include two generals, Douglas MacArthur and George S. Patton — though he said that, unlike MacArthur, he would not advocate using nuclear weapons except as a last resort.

(emphasise mine)

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    He thought America was greater at the turn of the century than when we BEAT THE NAZIS?! Wow.
    – corsiKa
    Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 15:35
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    @corsiKa The nazis were mostly beaten by the Soviet Union, allies came to finish the job. Most German losses occurred on the Eastern Front. That is not to say that the help wasn't needed, but to say that the US beat the nazis would be omitting a lot.
    – Malcolm
    Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 15:52
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    @corsiKa I think he is speaking more in an economic and societal sense than in terms of sheer military might. Of course, racism being gone is obviously a difference between the two times he wouldn't want to reverse, but in most respects he feels America was a true world power economically speaking, which is historically accurate.
    – user64742
    Commented Nov 4, 2016 at 2:26
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    @corsiKa Well, that's not really a controversial opinion if you're familiar with the austrian economic school. The 20th century was horrible for free enterprise, and in austrian economics, that equates to "less increase in quality of life than would be otherwise possible". For the US, the biggest parts started somewhere around the first world war, and has been getting worse ever since (more power to the government, more taxes, more government-provided services at the expense of taxpayers...). After WWII, the Cold War produced a lot of "us-them"isms that degraded things further.
    – Luaan
    Commented Nov 4, 2016 at 8:54
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit The US actually was a major contributor to World War 2, but not in the way many people think. Their main contribution was in form of money, supplies and equipment, not in form of soldiers. But that's a completely different topic.
    – Philipp
    Commented Nov 4, 2016 at 13:46

The question is problematic, because Trump hasn't really articulated it that way. Any one dimensional approach that looks for a specific date when America allegedly used to be great, is trivial and misses Trump's overall message, which would be embodied in his various policy proposals, each concerned with rolling back something "new and bad" in favor of the "old and good", aka his own articulation of conservatism.

To put it another way, the phrase "Make America Great Again" is intentionally vague so as to cover all Trump's areas where he's pushed for reform, such as immigration and border security, ACA repeal, removing taboos on open conversations in Washington about Islamic terrorism, and exposing political corruption.

You asked for a specific example: in an speech in August Trump railed against the policies of the current administration that had allowed and enabled crimes committed by illegal immigrants. The specific aspect of "Mak[ing] America Great Again" that would apply to that speech would be repealing the Obama administration's immigration policies:


In the speech Trump discusses a list of people murdered by illegal immigrants, discusses other negative economic and other effects of illegal immigration, and expresses a desire to restore things to the way they were before the administration's immigration policies.

For another example, in the second debate Clinton claimed the leak from her well paid, private private speech to Goldman-Sachs about "public and private positions" was actually inspired by Abraham Lincoln. Trump castigated her both in the debate and later from the stump on that, alleging a contrast between "Honest Abe" and Clinton in terms of honesty and integrity. Drawing similar contrasts between alleged Clinton corruption and historical American statesmen regarded as virtuous is another theme Trump has repeatedly pushed, and obviously you can't nail those down to a single historical date, either.

  • 1
    Do you mean that the date he considered America was great depends on the policies involved?
    – gerrit
    Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 16:30
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    Sure, that seems like the only fair way to interpret it. As a political slogan it's intended to rustle feathers, and if you had to pick a primary target, it's likely he has intended to criticize the current administration. Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 16:37
  • He also heavily criticizes the G.W. Bush and Clinton administrations, so keep going back...
    – jalynn2
    Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 17:02
  • @gerrit well it's not that per se. People are stretching "again" to imply it was great at some point or another. Trump is merely saying that sometime along in history problems crept into the government and so by "making it great again", he is referring to undoing all those problems. We cannot pick a specific date because it may not even exist.
    – user64742
    Commented Nov 4, 2016 at 2:30
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    policies of the current administration that he alleged had allowed and enabled crimes committed by illegal immigrants
    – Colin
    Commented Nov 4, 2016 at 5:47

This slogan was lifted verbatim from the first Reagan campaign in the 1980's. It has nothing to do with reality now, any more than it did then. At least, at the time of the Reagan campaign, there was a recession going on, Iran had 50 US hostages, unemployment was high and there was an oil crisis.

At the moment, although we have displaced workers in some geographic locations and industrial sectors, we have an unemployment index under 7% in most states, oil prices are near historic lows for the last 20 years, the stock market is still near record highs, and ISIS is in retreat in Iraq and Syria. I'd say we're pretty great right now, but my guess is that's not going to last.

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