Slogans are hard in campaigns, whether they be for candidates or corporations. So I am a little less critical than Larry Sabato is on President Obama and Mitt Romney’s slogans. For every “Just Do It,” there are thousands of forgettable ones. A great slogan has to say something true about the times and the “product”; and it has to beckon us, especially in this age of media, to join a cause. It has to be short; you don’t want anything you can’t say fast or fit easily on a TV screen or bumper sticker. “Just Do It" wasn’t only concise, but spoke to the nascent athlete or competitor in many of us and invited us to do what the greatest athletes do: strive for our personal best.
I’ve written my fair share of forgettable slogans, but there are a couple I still like. I wrote one for Tom Harkin once: “The courage of our convictions,” which I think was a nice tribute to Tom’s strong principles and to those of the people of Iowa. I wrote one for Al Gore years ago: “Democracy: It still works in Tennessee.” This may seem obscure today, but at the time it reflected Gore’s devotion to attending town meetings regularly in every part of his congressional district, a new idea at the time, and one that helped him be an outstanding member of Congress. (Years before, Gore’s father had a great comeback slogan; it was a twist on his opponent’s, “The Thinking Feller Votes McKellar,” which became “Think Some More: Vote for Gore.”)
Anyway, where are we in 2012 slogan-wise? Obama’s is “Forward.” Short, positive, but with a very clear implication that the other guy is backward. Romney’s “Believe in America” is reminiscent but not nearly as good as John Glenn’s 1984 slogan: “Believe in the future again.” Neither slogan will make the Hall of Fame, but they aren’t offensive and do an okay job of expressing each campaign’s message. Maybe it’s because I’m in the tank for Obama, but I prefer his: It is more dynamic and inviting. Romney’s is neither.
But, again, I have empathy. For those struggling slogan writers, there is a Web sitethat offers suggestions on how to do it better with such gems as “A vote for me is a vote for you.”