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Posters and Election Propaganda

A blog dedicated to the examination of communications in election campaigns, with a focus on posters

Tagged as “slogan”

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Posted by Steven Seidman at 2:08PM   |  1 comment
Silk Campaign Flag Banner for Harrison (1840) (Heritage Auctions, Inc.)

The Whig Party's campaign in the United States in 1840 for William Henry Harrison can be called the first great political marketing campaign that mythologized a candidate. The campaign, called "The Log Cabin Campaign," targeted the so-called "common man"—previously a main source of support for Andrew Jackson (and his successor, Martin Van Buren) and the Democrats.

The Whigs in 1840 introduced three ideas to election campaigns: one was to use a potent symbol—the log cabin (often combined with soldiers and a jug of hard cider)—for candidate Harrison, typically depicted as a rough-and-ready farmer and military hero; another was the creation of silk flag banners, which frequently added a portrait of Harrison and the phrases “Old Tip” and “The Hero of Tippecanoe” (a battle during the War of 1812) to the American flag; the party also introduced effective slogans into politics, with "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too," which referred to the Whig's ticket, headed by Harrison, with John Tyler as his running mate.

Some of the Whig rallies, with banners unfurled, drew an estimated 100,000 people, perhaps attracted by the seemingly endless supplies of hard cider. It mattered little to most partisans that the “common man” image concocted for Harrison was false. The log cabin was used to represent Harrison’s “poor” and “humble” background. His background was neither; rather, he was born in a mansion on a Virginia plantation and lived in a fancy house in Indiana when nominated for the presidency. Regardless of the truth, the imagery and the hard cider that was distributed at the gigantic rallies undoubtedly excited voters and boosted the Harrison campaign. This is evident in the voter turnout that increased from 54 percent in 1836 to 77 percent in 1840; the Harrison-Tyler ticket won by a 6 percent margin in the popular vote and claimed 80 percent of the electoral votes. The Democrats were thrown out of power—after holding it for a dozen years—and the Whigs gained their first president.

The log-cabin imagery, along with emphasis on Harrison’s military leadership, was accompanied by pageantry. The Whigs borrowed most of the Democratic Party’s past publicity ideas and took them to new heights. They published their own newspapers (one of which became the New York Herald Tribune); wrote campaign songs; organized rallies and parades; printed broadsides and banners; and produced goods such as hairbrushes adorned with portraits of Harrison, ceramic dishes with his “modest” farm on them, “Tippecanoe Shaving Soap or Log-Cabin Emollient,” and, above all, miniature log cabins. One observer counted one thousand banners in a Baltimore parade for Harrison.

At present, Heritage Auctions, Inc. has a rare silk campaign flag banner from the 1840 campaign up for auction. Most of these flags, as Heritage's Web site points out, "feature merely a campaign slogan or a central portrait of the candidate," but this banner shows the candidate in front of a log cabin, with a barrel of hard cider being tapped alongside it. Heritage estimates that this campaign banner will sell for between $20,000 and $25,000.

Sources: Paul F. Boller, Jr., Presidential Campaigns: From George Washington to George W. Bush, 2nd rev. ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004); Robert Gray Gunderson, The Log-Cabin Campaign (Lexington, Ky: University of Kentucky Press, 1957); Keith Melder, Hail to the Candidate: Presidential Campaigns from Banners to Broadcasts (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1992); Peter F. Nardulli, Jon K. Dalager, and Donald E. Greco, “Voter Turnout in U.S. Presidential Elections: An Historical View and Some Speculation,” PS: Political Science and Politics 29 (1996): 480-490.


Posted by Steven Seidman at 1:25PM   |  Add a comment
"America First," 1916 (in Michael Beschloss, Ed., American Heritage Illustrated History of The Presidents)

Before "Country First" (one of John McCain's slogans in this year's campaign), there was "America First."

Interestingly, this slogan was used in two different years, by two different political parties, in the early twentieth century, and again in 1992 (in a primary campaign).

In 1916, Democrat Woodrow Wilson's campaign employed it in the U.S. presidential campaign. In that election, the slogan was a reference to the Wilson administration having kept the country out of the war in Europe; and the slogan “Wilson, That’s All!” had been employed previously in advertisements for a brand of whiskey (according to Michael Beschloss in his American Heritage Illustrated History of The Presidents). Wilson's opponent, Republican Charles Evans Hughes, blamed the concerted “He Kept Us Out of War”/“America First” propaganda effort that so heavily used vivid pictorial posters and billboards for his defeat.

In 1920, it was the Republican campaign for Warren G. Harding that used this slogan, exploiting the public's disillusionment with World War I and its aftermath. One can see the "America First" slogan in Howard Chandler Christy’s idealized rendition of Harding with the candidate dramatically making the "V" sign with one hand and holding an American flag with the other.

Patrick Buchanan, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 1992, also used the theme "America First." According to Ron Faucheux, "Buchanan's enemies drew unflattering comparisons between his slogan and the same one that had been used a half-century earlier by the 'America First' committee, an isolationist group that opposed U.S. entry into World War II." The "America First" committee's goal had been to prevent the U.S. from entering World War II. 

McCain's "Country First" slogan does not imply any isolationism. In the present campaign, McCain is trying to say that the Republican candidate puts the "country" before any political considerations. For example, McCain called for the "surge" in Iraq when this was an unpopular strategy, even among members of his own party.


Posted by Steven Seidman at 7:15AM   |  Add a comment
Campaign Slogan, Democratic Party, 1964 (morningagaininamerica.com/ home/?page_id=29)

Slogans, ranging from “I Like Ike” (Republicans, U.S., 1952) to “Labour Isn’t Working” (Conservatives, Britain, 1978), have summarized entire political campaigns with a few, memorable words. Repetitions of slogans and playing on emotions are key practices of advertising. Advertising is, of course, a form of propaganda. Sometimes ads for products, such as “Wilson, That’s All!”—which was employed originally in advertisements for a brand of whiskey—are used for candidates, in this instance Woodrow Wilson.

Slogans are carefully devised, with each word calculated to appeal to one or more target audiences, with focus groups used to help determine the slogan, as well as to test it out. Obama's "Yes We Can" is a good example: it is positive, inclusive, and implies "change."

Some successful U.S. campaign slogans follow:

  • “Tippecanoe and Tyler too” (Whigs, 1840) celebrated William Henry Harrison, the hero of the Battle of Tippecanoe and his running mate, John Tyler
  • "Don't swap horses in midstream" (Republicans, 1864, for Abraham Lincoln)
  • "He Kept Us Out of War" (Democrats, 1916, for Wilson, who then had the U.S. enter World War I)
  • “Let’s be done with wiggle and wobble” (Republicans, 1920)—a reference to a Democratic policy that seemed first to have been isolationist, then interventionist
  • "A chicken in every pot. A car in every garage. A duck in every bathtub" (Republicans, 1928, for Herbert Hoover)
  • "A New Deal" (Democrats, 1932, for Franklin D. Roosevelt) 
  • "All the Way with LBJ" (Democrats, 1964, for Lyndon B. Johnson)
  • “A Stronger America” (Democrats, 2004, for John Kerry)

One slogan that has been forgotten by most Americans was devised by the Democratic Party in the mid-nineteenth century: "We Polked you in 1844; we shall Pierce you in 1852." It honored James Polk and Franklin Pierce. And in the past, slogans were often negative. For example, in 1884, the Democrats created “Soap! Soap! Blaine’s only Hope!” to help defeat James Blaine. The slogan was an allusion to Blaine's alleged corrupt practices.

Slogans are evident in many other countries' election campaigns, as well. Here are a few:

  • “Bread, Justice, Freedom” (Japan Labor-Farmer Party, 1928)
  • “The Socialists will be Liberal with your money!” (Conservatives, Britain, 1929)
  • "One People, One Country, One Leader" (Nazis, Germany, 1938)
  • "We Shall Overcome" (Popular Unity, Chile, 1970)
  • “We Need a Strong France” (Union for French Democracy, 1981)
  • “A Better Life for All” (African National Congress, South Africa, 1994)
  • "Enough Already!" (National Action Party, Mexico, 2000)

The "I Like Ike" slogan was used in a television commercial. It was an effective slogan, since it enhanced General Dwight D. Eisenhower's already positive image. The posters that were produced further reinforced the image of a confident, smiling presidential candidate who was ready to face all problems, and above petty party concerns. Here's the 1952 TV spot:

 



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