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Posters and Election Propaganda

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

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Posted by Steven Seidman at 2:30PM   |  Add a comment
Obama Campaign 2012 Slogan (BarackObama.com)

I've already blogged extensively about political campaign slogans, which began in 1840 in the U.S. to support the Whig ticket of William Henry Harrison (“The Hero of Tippecanoe”—during the War of 1812) and John Tyler: "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too." Other good slogans followed, both at home and abroad. In the U.S., there have been some clever ones, including the Republican Party's "We Polked you in 1844; we shall Pierce you in 1852," "Lincoln's "Vote Yourself a Farm" (1860) and "Don't swap horses in midstream" (1864), Harding's "Let’s be done with wiggle and wobble" (1920), and Coolidge's "Keep Cool With Coolidge" (1924) [for some more, see this BuzzFeed Politics blog post]; and in other countries, there were the African National Congress's "A Better Life for All" (South Africa, 1994) and the National Action Party's "Enough Already!" (Mexico, 2000).

In the 2008 U.S. presidential contest, Republican John McCain's campaign was characterized by several slogans—one of which was "Country First," which was partially a tactic to distance McCain from President Bush and the Republican Party; partially an attempt to stress McCain's heroism during the Vietnam War; and partially a veiled effort to cast suspicion on Obama's patriotism (as I stated then). Democrat Barack Obama's main slogan, "Yes We Can," was probably more effective, as was his "Change we can believe in"—both being so positive and inclusive.

Back in February of this year, Jeff Mason speculated about the President's new slogan, saying that the Obama campaign was "roadtesting" several, including "Winning The Future" and "Greater Together."

Clearly, there still are economic problems that need to be addressed, and the new slogan would have to connote "resolve" and "leadership." Does "Forward" (which debuted in a seven-minute-plus video to promote President Obama's re-election) do that? Perhaps so, but probably no one slogan would be perfect. Here's what Obama said a few months ago: "Inspiration is wonderful, nice speeches are wonderful, pretty posters, that's great. But what's required at the end of the day to create the kind of country we want is stick-to-it-ness. It's determination. It's saying, 'We don't quit.'"

What about the past buzz words, "hope" and "change"? On those, David Axelroad, the president's key campaign adviser, stated: "This election is also about hope and about change. That doesn't necessarily mean they're going to be in the slogan."

How about Mitt Romney's slogan, "Believe in America"? To me, it appears that his campaign strategists are trying to emulate Ronald Reagan and his 1984 "Morning in America" campaign.



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