It’s the Economy, Stupid: Political prose from across the Atlantic

Tomorrow America will go to the polls, following a presidential race that has been as stormy (Obama insulting Romney, Romney insulting 47% of Americans) as it has been expensive. While both Republican and Democrat campaign managers have ploughed more money than ever before in to their online presence, the importance of effective copywriting for grabbing the attention of voters remains undiminished. We’ve rooted out Republican and Democratic campaign slogans from the past fifty years for your political pleasure – copy designed to persuade voters to buy in to much more than a consumer product or service.

The straplines offer a neat insight into real-world problems of different eras – the Republicans imploring Americans to ‘vote like their whole world depended on it’ is soaked in 1968 nuclear panic. Taking the list as a whole, several themes are drawn on over and over again. Family, prosperity, America; one can taste the American Dream by chewing these pieces of presidential pith. The language is tight. Alliteration (‘Compassionate conservatism’), rhyme (‘All the Way with LBJ’) and clever punctuation (‘A Leader, for a Change’) all have their place. The tone is often emotional and both Republican and Democrats have to talk to all voters (‘We’).

As for rules, there are none – there is little correlation between language used and success in elections, and both parties use all kinds of linguistic tropes. Democrat Obama’s 2008 ‘Yes We Can!’ looks suspiciously like a recycling of Republican Bush’s ‘Yes, America Can!’ slogan from the 2004 campaigning season. We only regret that the age of humour seems to have passed in American presidential electioneering. One hundred years earlier, Grover Cleveland ran against James Blaine under the line ‘Blaine, Blaine, James G. Blaine, The Continental Liar from the State of Maine’; in 1964, opponents of Republican Barry Goldwater, who ran with ‘In your heart you know he’s right’, responded, unofficially, with ‘In your Guts, you know he’s Nuts’.

Slogans in blue were the ones belonging to the winning campaign

Campaign year Democrat Republican
2012 Forward. We Believe in America
2008 Change We Can Believe InChange We NeedHope

Yes We Can!

Country First
2004 Let America be America Again Yes, America Can!A Safer World and a More Hopeful America
2000 Prosperity and progressProsperity for America’s FamiliesGovernment of, by, and for the people…not the monied interests Compassionate conservatismLeave no child behindReal plans for real people

Reformer with results

1996 Building a bridge to the 21st century The Better Man for a Better America
1992 Don’t stop thinking about tomorrowPutting People FirstIt’s the economy, stupid
1988 Kinder, Gentler Nation
1984 America Needs a Change It’s morning again in America
1980 Are you better off than you were four years ago?
1976 Not Just PeanutsA Leader, For a Change He’s making us proud again
1968 Nixon’s the OneThis time, vote like your whole world depended on it
1964 The stakes are too high for you to stay at homeAll the way with LBJ In your heart you know he’s right

Thanks to for these quotes

Callum Dunbar

Author: George Wright Theohari

Branding | Content | Design. We develop and deliver beautifully effective communications across print, digital and film.

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