Slogans play an important place in politics and in patriotism. The very first words of the United States constitution: “We the People” can be seen as a tagline for the products called the United States of America, democracy and constitutional government.
Slogans and Revolution
Likewise: “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” can be seen as the slogan of the French revolution. The purpose of that tagline was of course to promote the French revolution and its supposed goals. These words are still seen as the slogan of the French republic over 200 years after the revolution.
“Liberty for all” and “give me liberty or give me death” played a similar role in the American Revolution. The idea behind these slogans was to introduce a very new and radical concept: political freedom to average people. We tend to forget that just 250 years ago freedom was a radical concept that vast majority of people were unfamiliar with. Both the American Founding Fathers and the French revolutionaries had to figure out ways to introduce the concept to the masses, slogans were an effective means of doing just that.
The Dark Side of Political Slogans
There is a very dark side to such slogans as well they can be abused by tyrants and politicians into tricking people into backing some very questionable causes. During the American Civil War the Confederacy claimed to be fighting for states’ rights. “States’ Rights” was a noble cause unlike the defense of slavery which was the war’s real motivation.
Later on during the Chinese Civil war Communist dictator Mao Zedong fooled peasants with the slogan “land to the tiller.” Mao and his followers used this to trick peasants into thinking they would give them land. In reality, Mao took all the land from the peasants and collectivized it. Mao of course was smart enough to realize that average Chinese wouldn’t fight for Communism, but they would fight for land. Just as poor southerners who wouldn’t fight for slavery would fight for “states’ rights.”
Motivating the Troops
Some slogans are designed to appeal to the masses, others to the members of an organization. The catchphrase used by the recent Occupy movement “We are the 99%” was designed for the movement’s members as much as anybody else. The idea was to convince the movement’s members it represented the majority when it didn’t.
Another reason for this tagline was to repackage something that has had little appeal in America; Marxist class warfare rhetoric, as something modern and distinctly American. Whether Occupy itself was a success or not is debatable but the tagline certainly was. It got the movement’s ideas across and appealed to a mass following. The slogan succeeded in appealing to large numbers of people who disagreed with Occupy’s basic cause.
Political slogans work just like any other tagline political leaders have products to sell just like businesses do. Like entrepreneurs leaders often face the difficult task of getting a product (an idea) across to people that neither understand it nor agree with it. In some cases people might be hostile to the idea a good slogan
can help a political cause as the success of the United States proves.