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U.S. Presidential Campaign Slogans and Make Believe - ranking the best and the worst

ElectionOracle / US Presidential Election 2016 Feb 17, 2016 - 10:46 AM GMT

By: Michael_T_Bucci

ElectionOracle

It is common understanding that the phrase "seeing is believing" means "I won't believe something until I see it." I won't believe that ghosts or UFOs exist until I actually see one and only then if I've exhausted all other possible explanations.

When the adage "seeing is believing" is turned upside down, i.e., "believing is seeing". It means we often project onto an object, person or event a preconceived notion rather than see it for what it is.


Psychologists have studied how politically vague statements make the most sense to the most number of people because they invite everyone to "fill in the blanks" and read between the lines. To draw a comparison, they are like proverbial Rorschach inkblots.

Classic examples of this can be found in Barack Obama's 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns where short, terse, open-ended one-liners lent themselves to multiple interpretations, such as "Change We Can Believe In". You and I might want different changes and believe in different things, but both of us support change we can believe in, don't we?

"Hope", proclaimed an Obama banner in 2008. Hope in what and for what? Hope that the GOP loses after two terms of George W. Bush? Hope that the stock market crash is short-lived? Or hope that John McCain doesn't win because his campaign motto was far clearer: "Reform, prosperity and peace"?

Repeating the success of 2008 amorphous one-liners in 2012, Mr. Obama's slogan was reduced to a single word, "Forward". Who except the "backward" would argue?

We now come to 2016, a period after Libya, Ukraine, Edward Snowden, admitted dragnet surveillance, Syria, ISIS, Cold War II, widened income gaps, Black Lives Matter, Bundy Ranch I & II and a shocking rise in domestic mass murders, to be brief.

Because Mr. Obama's "Change We Can Believe In" has yet to materialize, Bernie wants us to have "A Future To Believe In" instead. Since the future hasn't arrived yet, we only can believe in it.

Though Mike Huckabee stole Obama's "Hope" message, he added where to go next: "From Hope to Higher Ground". He didn't tell us where it's located.

Secretary Clinton assures us that "Hillary For America" means she isn't for Wall Street, the Pentagon, neocons, email leaks and Saudi beheadings. Or maybe all these are pro-American after all? Either way, she has everyone covered.

If anyone is unsure whether this country is still "great", Donald Trump claims it isn't and "He Will Make America Great Again". Once great (again), it will become "A New American Century" according to Marco Rubio, with "New Possibilities. New Leadership" chimed Carly Fiorini, "Reigniting the Promise of America" says Ted Cruz, led by "Courageous Conservatives" (like himself). Sadly, Rand Paul's "Defeat the Washington Machine" was defeated by the Washington machine and he won't get a chance to "Unleash the American Dream".

So far, my biased choice of BEST theme is "Heal. Inspire. Revive." of Ben Carson, the only candidate admitting of any spiritual source in the universe, though one narrowed to his fundamentalist beliefs and skewed by his awkward rendering of history.

My choice of the WORST and weakest themes are those of Jeb Bush: "Jeb!", "Jeb can fix it", and "All in for Jeb". It would be better if Jeb were to change it to, "I Am Not My Brother... or Father!"

Over the course of half a decade, the acumen of headline writers (who once were among the highest paid staff at a newspaper) and slogan writers has declined to where Mitt Romney in 2012 stole a slogan and replaced one word. The slogan "Obama Isn't Working" was lifted from a hall-of-fame campaign used by the British Conservative Party supporting Margaret Thatcher's bid to be British PM in the run-off general elections of 1979. The ad by Saatchi and Saatchi of London read "Labour Isn't Working." It captured the twin essences of Britain's high unemployment rate and the failure of the Labour Party to solve it.

But in 2012, Obama was working, Mitt.

A 2016 Presidential Campaign Slogan Survey was conducted among approximately 250 branding, marketing, and advertising professionals who were asked to select and rank the top three slogans of the 22 announced Democratic and Republican candidates as of August 2015.

Slogan rankings were based on the following criteria:
 
Memorability: Are they catchy and memorable?
Authenticity: Do they capture the individual style of the candidate or spirit of the campaign?
Likeability: Do they tell a fun and inviting story?

Of only candidates who still remain in the race, the group ranked:

#2: A Political Revolution Is Coming.  Bernie Sanders
#6: Reigniting the Promise for America.  Ted Cruz
#7: Jeb!  Jeb Bush
#10: A New American Century.  Marco Rubio
#14: Hillary for America.  Hillary Clinton
#16: Heal. Inspire. Revive.  Dr. Ben Carson
#19: Make America Great Again.  Donald Trump
#20: Kasich for Us.  John Kasich

Candidates who have since withdrawn from the race but were ranked in the top 10 last August are:

#1: From Hope to Higher Ground.  Mike Huckabee
#3: Telling It Like It Is.  Chris Christie
#4: Defeat the Washington Machine. Unleash the American Dream.  Rand Paul
#5: People Over Politics.  George Pataki
#8: Fresh Ideas for America.  Lincoln Chafee
#9: Rebuild the American Dream.  Martin O’Malley

Of candidates with slogans ranked in the top 10 of the survey, four are actively running and six have withdrawn. Draw your own conclusions.

The 10 Most Common Words Found in U.S. Presidential Slogans — 1828 to Present
(in order of frequency) are:

    America(n)
    Leader/Leadership
    Change
    Prosperity
    Experience
    Believe
    Hope
    Future/Forward/Tomorrow
    Better
    Win

And some the better slogans of the last century, in my biased opinion, are:

"He kept us out of war". Woodrow Wilson, 1916
"A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage". Herbert Hoover, 1928
"Happy Days Are Here Again". FDR, 1932
"Remember Hoover!" FDR, 1936
"No Fourth Term Either". Wendell L. Willkie, 1940
"Roosevelt for Ex-President". Wendell L. Willkie, 1940
"Don't swap horses in midstream". FDR, 1944
"We are going to win this war and the peace that follows". FDR, 1944
"Give Em Hell, Harry!" Harry S. Truman, 1948
"I Like Ike". Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1952
"In Your Heart You Know He's Right". Barry Goldwater, 1964
"In Your Heart You Know He's Nuts". LBJ, 1964 (Democrats' retort to Goldwater theme)
"This time, vote like your whole world depended on it". Richard Nixon, 1968
"Not Just Peanuts". Jimmy Carter, 1976
"Are You Better Off Than You Were Four Years Ago?" Ronald Reagan, 1980
"It's Morning Again in America". Ronald Reagan, 1984
"Where's The Beef?" Walter Mondale, 1984
"Kinder, Gentler Nation". George H.W. Bush, 1988
"Ross For Boss". Ross Perot, 1992
"It's the economy, stupid". Bill Clinton, 1992

History gives us the advantage of judging whether or not a president actually fulfilled the promise of his slogan. Wilson did not keep us out of World War I. Hoover did not put a chicken in every pot and car in every garage. We did win WWII and the peace that followed. Truman did give 'em hell. Nixon disappointed the whole world. Carter was more than peanuts. You weren't better off in 1980 than 1976. Bombing Iraq in 1991 wasn't the action of a kinder, gentler nation. It was the economy in 1992.

The most powerful in the category of "believing is seeing" slogans from my century-long selections is "It's Morning Again in America," penned with voice-over by San Francisco ad chief Hal Riney for Ronald Reagan in 1984.

For Corporate America, Wall Street, and the wealth and financial sectors it was morning. For workers in unions, for those victimized by a widening of the income gap, the outsourcing of jobs to Asia, a spread of industrial rustbelts, neglect for infrastructures and the usurping of the public sector by the private sector it was the beginning of a slow sunset.

For them, the morning of the "Reagan revolution" marked the beginning of Nighttime in America. And here we are.

 

Notes:

"2016 Presidential Campaign Slogan Survey". Tagline Guru. August, 2015.
http://www.taglineguru.com/2016campaignslogansurvey.html

"Labour Isn't Working". A Wikipedia history of the British Conservative ad campaign in the run-off election of 1979. .
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labour_Isn't_Working

"List of U.S. presidential campaign slogans" Wikipedia.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._presidential_campaign_slogans

"What makes a campaign slogan hit -- or miss?" CNN. February 13, 2016.
http://www.cnn.com/2016/02/13/opinions/lamest-and-best-campaign-slogans-mcwhorter/

(c) 2016 Michael T Bucci. All Rights reserved.

Michael T Bucci is a retired public relations executive currently living in New England. He has authored nine books on practical spirituality collectively titled The Cerithous Material.


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