Here's a look at how the phrase came about.
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It happened on Nov. 7, 2012, the day after Mitt Romney lost what had been presumed to be a winnable race against President Obama. Republicans were spiraling into an identity crisis, one that had some wondering whether a GOP president would ever sit in the Oval Office again.
But on the 26th floor of a golden Manhattan tower that bears his name, Trump was coming to the conclusion that his own moment was at hand.
And in typical fashion, the first thing he thought about was how to brand it.
One after another, phrases popped into his head. “We Will Make America Great.” That one did not have the right ring. Then, “Make America Great.” But that sounded like a slight to the country.
And then, it hit him: “Make America Great Again.”
“I said, ‘That is so good.’ I wrote it down,” Trump recalled in an interview. “I went to my lawyers. I have a lot of lawyers in-house. We have many lawyers. I have got guys that handle this stuff. I said, ‘See if you can have this registered and trademarked.’ ”
Five days later, Trump signed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, in which he asked for exclusive rights to use “Make America Great Again” for “political action committee services, namely, promoting public awareness of political issues and fundraising in the field of politics.” He enclosed a $325 registration fee.
His was a vision that ran against the conventional wisdom of the time — in fact, it was “much the opposite,” Trump said.
To save itself, the Republican establishment was convinced, the GOP would have to sand off its edges, become kinder and more inclusive. “Make America Great Again” was divisive and backward-looking. It made no nod to diversity or civility or progress.
It sounded like a death wish.
But Trump had seen something different in the country, and in the daily lives of its struggling citizens.
“I felt that jobs were hurting,” he said. “I looked at the many types of illness our country had, and whether it’s at the border, whether it’s security, whether it’s law and order or lack of law and order. Then, of course, you get to trade, and I said to myself, ‘What would be good?’ I was sitting at my desk, where I am right now, and I said, ‘Make America Great Again.’ ”