Slogans: Do They Get You Elected?

This week we are focusing on Election 2012! Today’s Amaze-ing Words Wednesday topic is campaign slogans, and for Deep-Fried Friday I will be interviewing Piper Bayard and Kristen Lamb, presidential and vice-presidential candidates with a marvelous slogan and governing ideas you’ll want to hear.

So how about it? Do campaign slogans really matter? How powerful are words in getting a candidate noticed, taken seriously, and catapulted into the spotlight? Do we care what the bumper stickers say? Does it make a difference when we cast our ballot?

Some past campaign slogans do stand out in history as being particularly memorable. Let’s take a look at a few:

Tippecanoe and Tyler Too! – William Henry Harrison led the first modern-day campaign with slogans, songs, and a populist feel. Harrison was formerly a commanding general who led American forces in the defeat of Native American enemies at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811. His running mate was John Tyler. The slogan conveyed confidence in a commander and had rhyme and rhythm.

Ol’ “Tippecanoe” indeed won the office as the first Whig president in his campaign of 1840. However, President Harrison served only 32 days of his term. He died of a respiratory infection contracted while delivering his 1841 inaugural address in chilly weather without a hat or a coat.

Give ‘Em Hell, Harry! – This popular slogan was never the official one for Harry S Truman’s 1948 presidential campaign. He was elected Vice-President alongside President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944 but assumed the presidency when Roosevelt died in April 1945. The end of World War II only weeks later did not bring immediate peace and prosperity, but rather the difficult task of rebuilding after the war.

The slogan came during a 1948 speech which President Truman gave in Harrisburg, Illinois. As Truman decried his Republican opponents, a staunch supporter yelled out, “Give ’em hell, Harry!” Surprisingly, it stuck. Truman was not a particularly popular president, though, and it was predicted that he would lose the 1948 election. His victory was so unexpected that the Chicago Tribune had already printed the front page saying “Dewey Defeats Truman.”

I Like Ike – Irvin Berlin wrote the song “They Like Ike” for the 1950 musical Call Me Madam, starring Ethel Merman. The musical tells of the appointment of a Washington woman to be American ambassador to a small fictitious country. Dwight D. Eisenhower adapted the song for his 1952 campaign for the presidency. It was also a popular slogan on many campaign buttons. Here’s the commercial which was featured in Eisenhower’s successful campaign:

It’s Morning Again in America – Ronald Reagan’s election to the presidency in 1980 was not due as much to effective slogans as Americans’ sense that incumbent Jimmy Carter had been an ineffective president. In 1984, however, the reelection campaign focused on reminding people that things had gotten better in the few years since President Reagan had taken office. Thus, the tag lines “It’s morning again in America” and “Leadership That’s Working.” Voters agreed with these encouraging sentiments and re-elected Reagan in a landslide with 49 of the 50 states.

Putting People First – That was the official campaign slogan of Bill Clinton in 1992. However, the internal slogan which campaign manager James Carville posted in the headquarters was the one which caught on: “It’s the economy, stupid.” After a while of George Bush (Sr.) saying things weren’t so horrible, Clinton’s focus on the sluggish economy was refreshing for many Americans to hear. Along with Clinton’s assurance that “I feel your pain,” this slogan captured the attention of voters, and he defeated Bush to gain the presidential office.

Change We Can Believe In – Perhaps you don’t remember that full slogan, but Barack Obama successfully used the word “change” again and again in the campaign. For a nation that had lost confidence in the current state of things, change was what they were looking for. Obama also had campaign ads featuring his photo with either the word “Hope” or “Change” underneath. But these slogans don’t begin to compare to the more memorable chant that cropped up in the campaign and throughout candidate Obama’s appearances: “Yes, we can!” Barack Obama became our 44th president with a theme of change and a can-do attitude.

For more campaign slogans, there is a good list at Tag Line Guru.

What campaign slogans do you recall? Which ones have you liked? Do you believe these soundbites impact election results? What do you think would be an effective slogan for Election 2012?

Be sure you come back here on Friday to see the terrific campaign slogan for Bayard-Lamb 2012. I will be interviewing them as part of their Election 2012 blog tour.

Sources: PresidentsUSA.net, Miller Center – University of VirginiaInternet Broadway Database, Tag Line Guru, Wikipedia, The Living Room Candidate

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13 thoughts on “Slogans: Do They Get You Elected?

  1. I always liked the Tippecanoe one. Mostly because it sounded funny and had a rhythm.

    Obama’s was a BIG one…but I think it’s hugeness backfired. I don’t recall so many people getting so up in arms about someone’s slogan after they made it into office. I think it resonated, particularly with young voters, but raised expectations that something magical was going to happen. Not to get political (that’s not my scene), but every president makes campaign promises they don’t/can’t fulfill. He just made one into his slogan that has an awfully broad interpretation.

    Also, I’d totally hang that TIppecanoe poster in my house.

    1. I agree with you, Amber, that slogans can be overly broad and create unrealistic expectations! Maybe someone should run on “I won’t do anything too stupid.” And that Tippecanoe poster is pretty cool. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. I do believe political soundbites affect election results. I believe soundbites can affect anything. I still remember car lot jingles that played when I was a kid growing up in Podunk, Texas.

    I go by this philosophy: if people hear something enough times, they’ll start to believe it. I believe this is especially true when something–soundbite, whatever–is heard over and over again as background noise. That’s when slogans or soundbites infiltrate the subconscious. No real point there. It’s just my thoughts.

    Good post. 😀

    1. I think you made a good point, Catie. The hope with a slogan is that, repeatedly often enough, people will believe its message about the candidate. And many times, people do.

  3. The slogan I think of is Nixon’s. “Re-elect the President.” Simple, straightforward. Tells you that Nixon IS president. It’s not something he wants to be. Makes it sound like a patriotic duty to vote for him. “Oh, yes. We need to go re-elect the president today.”

    Great blog, Julie. Thanks for the shout out. We’re looking forward to visiting your blog. 🙂

    1. “Re-elect the President” – that’s great! (Of course, the American public later regretted that decision since the “slogan” Nixon is more remembered by is “I am not a crook.”) Looking forward to the interview on Friday!

  4. I like the Tippecanoe slogan too, it’s just fun to say. I have a nephew named Tyler and I always think “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too” in my head when I see him :).

    I think slogans make a difference, but these days I just look at them as more empty promises. I’ve become a political cynic as I’ve gotten older, I guess.

    1. I’ve somewhat cynical too. Unfortunately, I think a lot of officeholders spend more time devising great campaigns (and slogans) than solving problems and representing their constituency. Tyler’s a great name, by the way. The Tyler of the slogan got the presidency right away, so things worked out well for him.

  5. LOVE the new site, Julie!! I can’t wait for Friday’s interview. And as for slogans, I think the Bayard/Lamb campaign has several AMAZING ones. We’re overdue for “a pair in the White House.”

  6. I think slogans do help, especially today when the Internet plays such a powerful role. That slogan is attached to the individual’s persona and it’s instantly permanent. And like Catie says, they word because people do believe things if they hear them long enough.

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