Campaign slogans are said to be important because they sum up, in just a few short words, what the candidate stands for. The idea is to give the voters a catchy phrase that will keep that candidate fresh in their minds, rather like an advertising jingle. This year’s crop of candidates have come up with some of the most boring slogans I have heard:
Hillary Clinton: “Everyday Americans need a champion. I want to be that champion.” Yawn
Ben Carson: “Heal. Inspire. Revive.” Then you should stick to practicing medicine, Ben
Carly Fiorina: “New Possibilities. Real Leadership.” This from a failed leader
Ted Cruz: “Reigniting the Promise of America” You gonna burn up our promise, eh Ted?
Donald Trump: “Make America Great Again” Ho hum Trumpety-Dumpty – plagiarism
Bernie Sanders: “A political revolution is coming” Hope this one goes better than those in the Middle-East
Marco Rubio: “A New American Century” No, Marco, we are 16 years into the ‘new’ century
Rand Paul: “Defeat The Washington Machine. Unleash The American Dream.” Sounds like a war cry
Mike Huckabee: “From Hope To Higher Ground” Expecting flooding, Mikey?
Campaign slogans of yore were fun, they were interesting, they made you remember. Even though I was not yet alive in 1840, even I will never forget “Tippecanoe And Tyler Too”, the slogan of William Henry Harrison in his campaign against John Tyler. It has a certain cadence that sticks in the mind. Rather like James Polk’s “54-40 Or Fight” in 1844, to which Henry Clay, the opposition, came back with “Who Is James K Polk?” Well, the world figured out who Polk was quickly enough. Then in 1852, Franklin Pierce came up with this catchy slogan: “We Polked You In ‘44, We Shall Pierce You In ‘52”. See what I mean … they were creative, original and catchy. Today’s slogans are not memorable, certainly not fun, and really say nothing. Here are a few of what I think are the better ones from years past:
John Fremont (1856): “Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Speech, Free Men, Fremont” Still wonder why you never heard of him? He offered more ‘free’ stuff than he could provide.
Abraham Lincoln (1860): “Vote Yourself A Farm”
Abraham Lincoln (1864): “Don’t Trade Horses In Midstream” I think this is the best I’ve heard for a 2nd term candidate
Ulysses S. Grant (1868): “Vote As You Shot” Not sure what it means, but short and memorable
Ulysses S. Grant (1872): “Grant Us Another Term”
James G. Blaine (1884): “Ma, Ma, Where’s My Pa?” A bit of history on this one – the slogan referred to the allegation that Blaine’s opponent, Grover Cleveland, had fathered an illegitimate child in 1874. When Cleveland was elected President, his supporters added the line, “Gone to the White House, Ha, Ha, Ha!”
In 1916, Woodrow Wilson had four slogans:
- “He Has Kept Us Out Of War.”
- “He Proved The Pen Mightier Than The Sword.”
- “War In The East, Peace In The West, Thank God For Woodrow Wilson.”
- “War In Europe – Peace In America – God Bless Wilson”
Tooted his own horn a bit too much for my taste, but I guess that is the whole point
Calvin Coolidge (1924): “Keep Kool And Keep Coolidge” Always helpful when you can make something out of the name
Herbert Hoover (1928): “Who but Hoover?” Another nice play on name; and also, one we probably all heard our parents say when we were growing up: “A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage”
Franklin D. Roosevelt (1932): “Happy Days Are Here Again” They even made a song out of this one … I could hum a few bars if you like
Alfred M. Landon (1936): “Let’s Get Another Deck” This was a reference to cards, in response to his opponent’s ‘New Deal’; and also this: “Life, Liberty And Landon” Guess not
In 1940, Franklin D. Roosevelt won a 3rd term, in spite of opponent Wendell Willkie’s five campaign slogans:
- “No Fourth Term Either”
- “Roosevelt For Ex-President” Pretty creative
- “There’s No Indispensable Man”
- “We Want Willkie”
- “Win With Willkie”
In response, FDR came back with a single slogan: “Better A Third Termer than a Third Rater” Says it all
Harry S. Truman (1948):
- “I’m Just Wild About Harry” This time the song came before the slogan
- “Pour It On ‘Em, Harry!” Pour what? Boiling oil?
- “Give ‘Em Hell, Harry!” Appeals to me, though I’m not sure why
Dwight D. Eisenhower (1952): “I Like Ike” Short, sweet and to the point
Dwight D. Eisenhower (1956): “I Still Like Ike”
The 1964 race between Barry Goldwater and Lyndon B. Johnson was fun (and yes, I remember this one quite clearly):
- Goldwater: “In Your Heart, You Know He’s Right”
- Johnson: “In Your Guts, You Know He’s Nuts” What’s not to love here?!
Jimmy Carter (1976): “Not Just Peanuts”
Ronald Reagan (1980):
- “Are You Better Off Than You Were Four Years Ago?”
- “Let’s Make America Great Again” Sound familiar? Hmmmm … can we say Trump is a copycat?
And thereafter campaign slogans became dull, mundane, ho-hum. I am considering a career in writing campaign slogans. Let me just quickly see what I can come up with:
- Be A Chump. Vote For Trump, The Grump
- I Beg Of Thee, Vote For Hillary
- Choose Cruz
- Vote For Sanders; He’s Got The Answers
- Kasich the Maverick
Okay, so maybe I better not give up the day job just yet.