I happened across some old classic political campaign slogans earlier this week, and when contrasted with the very lame, unimaginative current slogans – well, let's say that it was no contest.
In general, the candidate with the catchier slogan wins the election. That is a very general rule of thumb and there have been exceptions to the rule. The most notable one was the 1964 slogan for Mr. Goldwater, which we will discuss below.
First, a look at a few classic slogans from the past:
Lyndon Baines Johnson- 1964 “All the Way With LBJ” Seems kind of silly and childish now, and heck, it says absolutely nothing about what his policies would be about, but that doesn't matter now because it was a winning and memorable slogan. His opponent Mr. Goldwater had what some consider to be a stronger slogan: “In your heart you know he's right.” But the classic daisy campaign ad pretty much finished off Goldwater.
Bill Clinton- 1992 had two: “Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow” and “Putting People First”-- plus another semi-official slogan, “It's the economy, stupid.” However 1996's “Building America's Bridge to the 21st Century” was the one line that appeared on buttons and everything else. Wow, that really told you what their “vision thing” was about! It was all about being future-oriented and welcoming the application of new computer technologies to the work place. They did not mention that dirty old, well-paying manufacturing jobs were going to fall away, but that's another story.
Al Gore- 2000 “Prosperity & Progress” Aw, man, this is where Gore went wrong. He went from sharing a ticket with one of the best slogans to sharing a ticket (with Joe Lieberman) on one of the weakest. A similar slogan (Peace and Prosperity) worked for Eisenhower in 1956 but he was already an incumbent. OK, at least it told you that he was looking forward and not backward.
Ronald Reagan- 1980 slogan “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” 1984 “Morning in America” One of the stronger slogans in recent years, it told you that the U.S. could or should look forward to a renewal of strength and influence in the world. It was much stronger than Mr. Mondale's slogan, “America Needs a Change” - a phrase successfully tweaked by the Obama campaign years later. The 1980 tag line succeeded when running against Jimmy Carter, who in my opinion was a victim of economic history.
Richard Nixon- 1968 slogan “Nixon's the One!” One of the simplest slogans ever, but it was often seized upon by comics and others once the Watergate scandal broke out.
John F. Kennedy- 1960 Tagline was “A Time for Greatness” – a line full of hubris and just asking for it. But fortunately Mr. Nixon had an equally lame tagline: “Experience Counts”, while the official slogan was “For the Future”.
Dwight D. Eisenhower- 1952 “I Like Ike” Another silly slogan but still it was memorable and that's what counts. Another feature in its favor was that it used a nickname for the candidate, helping voters to identify him as a friend or neighbor. It beat his opponent's (Adlai Stevenson) yawner of a slogan: “That Experienced Candidate”.
Barack Obama- 2008 slogan was “Change You Can Count On” even though the stock market crash and subsequent recession made it difficult to forge new policies and revamp government. But fortunately his opponent Mr. McCain changed his slogan six times and never settled on a message.
The 2012 Campaign:
This year's campaign slogans are “Forward” and “Believe in America”. Can you even tell from the slogan which party it belongs to? NO!
For future reference, the first one belongs to the incumbent, Pres. Obama, while the second one belongs to the challenger, Mr. Romney.
Often the campaign directors settle on their final slogan or tagline around the time of the convention, so it is possible that we could see new, improved versions.
But let's help them along, shall we? After all, you cannot trust committees with much.
For Mr. Romney, who will probably be forever remembered as the Etch-A-Sketch candidate, a slogan incorporating that phrase is a must! I propose, “We'll Etch-A-Sketch American Jobs”. Like it? I thought you would.
Now the incumbent, Pres. Obama, has a problem because as the incumbent he cannot propose “change” once again. So he has to have something that helps convince people to keep the same horse they rode in on, a proven winner. Or as the Lincoln's 1864 slogan, “Don't swap horses in the middle of the stream”
He could tweak a campaign from the 1800s, “Vote Yourself a Farm” and change it to “Vote Yourself a Job”. That would make people get out to the polls and vote.
Anyway, all this sloganeering brings up another variation, the parody of a slogan. Such as “In your heart, you know he's nuts” in reference again to the classic Goldwater slogan. There was an anti-FDR slogan in 1940 – “Washington Wouldn't, Grant Couldn't, Roosevelt Shouldn't” – referring to Roosevelt's running for an unprecedented third term.
The many stories about Romney lend themselves well to a slew of anti-slogans – based on his maltreatment of the family dog, his offshore bank accounts, his Mormon religion, his stonewalling over releasing more than one year's tax return. Even the fact that he is raising so much money can boomerang on him. Oh, doesn't it just make ya wanna sink your teeth into writing catchy anti-slogans???
Something like “I Believe Seamus” - “Believe in Ben Franklins” or “Believe in Dead Presidents” - “You People Vote For Me, Me, Me”.