Campaign slogans that probably won’t make it to a bumber sticker near you
By Michael A. Matteo
As we get closer to Election Day campaign commercials begin to bombard the American public. By the time it is all over we will all be really sick of hearing the campaign slogans, “Change We Can Believe In” and “Country First.”
Do campaign slogans really make a difference to voters? One could make the argument that a catchy phrase might stick in the minds of voters when they enter the polls but remember we are choosing a president, not laundry detergent. However, the combination of Madison avenue and MTV have definitely reduced the average American’s attention span so it just might come down to who has the best slogan.
Campaign slogans have been around for a long time. Going all the way back to the election of 1840, the jingle type of slogan might very well have been responsible for the election of William Henry Harrison. His slogan was, “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too.” (Harrison was the “hero at the battle of Tippecanoe a meaningless battle that actually encouraged the Indians to join the British during the war of 1812). But it didn’t matter because the incumbent president, Martin Van Buren was unpopular because the economy was in a shambles (sound familiar?) and it was a catchy little ditty too, wasn’t it?
In some cases, campaign slogans give voters something to hum and in other cases a snippet of information to consider. In 1864 Abraham Lincoln used, “Don’t swap horses in the middle of the stream.” In 1924 Calvin Coolidge will be remembered for the phrase, “Keep Cool With Coolidge.” And who could forget Dwight Eisenhower’s 1952 simple, but effective, slogan, “I Like Ike?”
In comparison to these famous slogans Barack Obama’s and John McCain’s slogans seem downright dull. The concept of “change” has been one of the most overused words in the history of political campaigns. Jimmy Carter in 1976 used the slogan “A Leader For Change,” but little did we know the changes would be for the worse. Walter Mondale also called for “change” when he ran in 1984 with the phrase, “America Needs Change.” And, finally, Bill Clinton advocated, “change” with one of several slogans stating, “It’s Time To Change America.” It may have worked for Bill Clinton but every time I heard it I thought that it would have made a much better slogan for Pampers.
John McCain’s, “Country First” isn’t much better. Given the rising unemployment rate, high food prices, record foreclosures, and so many other things going wrong in the nation it would appear that cynicism supercedes nationalism as the mood of the average American. The appeal to nationalism did get a leader elected and his slogan was, “One People, One Country, One Leader,” but in the end things didn’t go too well for one Adolf Hitler. With all of the millions of dollars at his disposal is this the best that McCain’s ad men could come up with? Given reports about McCain’s temper, he might be better off with a retread like, “I’m Mad As Hell And I’m Not Gonna Take It Anymore!”
Here are a few slogans that voters might be able to remember a little better when they walk into their local precinct on election day: “Get Good Karma Vote For Barack Obama.” (That one would play out especially well in California with the nuts and berry crowd). Perhaps “Eliminate The Pain Vote For John McCain” might work for the maverick. If not that, then “Smooth Sailin’ with McCain and Palin.” Obama could use, “Bring Your Mama And Vote for Obama.”
Historically, campaign slogans have also been used to attack a candidate’s opponent. In the election of 1884, Grover Cleveland’s supporters wrote the following slogan about his opponent, James G. Blaine, “Blaine, Blaine, James G. Blaine. A Continental Liar From The State Of Maine.” Here are a two slogans that either McCain or Obama could run to sling a little mud at each other. “For An Atrophied Brain Vote For John McCain.” “Reverend Wright Created A Lot Of Drama, For More Of The Same, Vote For Barack Obama.”
Those few little words may end up being the difference between a candidate winning the presidency or not. And if you don’t believe me how many of you remember Ronald Reagan’s 1980 resounding slogan, “Are You Better Off Than You Were Four Years Ago?” vs John Kerry’s, “Let America Be America Again.” Not even Kerry knew what that one meant.
Mike Matteo is a resident of Tampa, Florida where he was a public and private high school teacher who taught classes in economics, history, psychology and philosophy. Mike has written twenty full-length feature films, has taught screenwriting at the University of South Florida. He has also written or co-authored three books. E-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.