A Great Campaign Slogan, for a Change
By Al Kamen
Wednesday, June 16, 2004; Page A25
In a close race, the right campaign slogan can be crucial to victory. Campaigns often have one or perhaps two that they use to set the tone for a campaign or to attack an opponent or both.
This year, President Bush and Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) have trotted out a few themes, but neither appears to have hit on a true winner.
Kerry has talked about "The Real Deal," or used Langston Hughes's "Let America Be America Again." (Which echoes a Ronald Reagan 1980 theme, "Let's Make America Great Again.") An ad yesterday intoned, "Stronger at home, respected in the world."
Bush has used typical incumbent themes, such as "Steady Leadership in Times of Change," which could be risky if folks think the country's going in the wrong direction, or "A Tested Leader," the themes of a safer, stronger country, and "Yes, America Can!"
But think of the great ones of the past, ones we all recall even if we can't remember what they meant. There were William Henry Harrison's "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too" in 1840 and James Polk's "54-40 or Fight" in 1844.
Loop Fans can help the candidates! Yes, it's the In the Loop Campaign Slogan Contest! Just pick a creative, memorable campaign slogan for Bush or Kerry or both.
Remember, challenger slogans tend to imply criticism, from Warren G. Harding's "Return to Normalcy" to Jimmy Carter's "A Leader, for a Change."
Some slogans rally the faithful, such as Barry Goldwater's "In your heart you know he's right" or "A choice, not an echo." Some stress general likeability, such as "I Like Ike." Some are essentially meaningless, such as "Nixon's the One" -- which sparked demonstrations of pregnant women carrying that banner -- or Bill Clinton's lame "Bridge to the 21st Century."
Bush I used "kinder, gentler" to stress moderation, and Bush II carried that theme in 2000 with the "compassionate conservative" and "uniter, not divider" slogans.
Some great ones played off a name, such as John C. Fremont's "Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men, Free Speech and Fremont" in 1856.
Watch slogans that promise too much, such as Herbert Hoover's great 1928 theme of "A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage." Then he got hit by the Great Depression. Even so, he picked a traditional incumbent's theme in 1932 -- "Be Safe with Hoover."
Our favorite, unearthed as were many others by Elizabeth Dunn at the Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript and Special Collections Library, was challenger Thomas E. Dewey's existentialist theme in 1944: "Dewey or Don't We."
Send in your suggestions, no more than one per candidate, to: In the Loop, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your name and home and work phone numbers. The 10 winning entries for each campaign will win classic, original, dark-blue-with-white-lettering In the Loop T-shirts. Contest deadline is June 23.
Update on continuing diplomatic work. Last week we had the much-named Bush plan for Mideast democracy settling, after many versions, "Partnership for Progress and a Common Future With the Region of the Broader Middle East and North Africa," or "PPCFRBMENA." Not a catchy acronym to be had.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
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