In a new Washington Post interview with Donald Trump that will make you want to tear your hair and heart out, the president-elect not only excavates the origins of his 2016 campaign slogan “Make America Great Again”–he also comes up with a new catchphrase for his 2020 bid. He encourages his lawyer to go ahead and trademark it, just to be safe. Here’s the passage:
Halfway through his interview…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.
What Trump may not have realized during this Eureka! moment is that his golden phrase is already someone else’s intellectual property. In last year’s gruesome, morbidly prescient horror flick The Purge: Election Year, “Keep America Great” is the central dictum in a corrupt, far-right-dominated, near-future version of the United States. (You can check the final screen of faux-political-ad teasers for the film for reference.) Remember that in the Purge movies–Election Year is the third in the series–citizens are permitted to commit any crime they want for one night only every year.
There are a number of elements that make this overlap between grotesque reality and outlandish fiction so eerie. An example: In Election Year, a chorus of 1-percenter Neo-Nazi politicians and corporate heads, who call themselves the New Founding Fathers, chant “Keep Our Country Great” when they sacrifice dissenters–normally, POC or lower-class citizens–at their annual “Purge Mass.” Notably, the film climaxes with the NFF’s attempt to murder the current female, liberal presidential candidate, who is running on an anti-Purge platform, at an altar.
The chant of “Keep America Great” that Trump hopes his supporters will rally behind in 2020, also happens to be a running theme in Election Year‘s imagined 2040 … and its coded motto in support of population cleansing. In the movie in 2040, the United States is a couple decades along under a hyper-conservative, nearly-totalitarian regime. If you’re like me and had any fear that The Purge: Election Year might be the most timely artistic statement in recent memory, this only confirms it.