What’s In A Political Slogan?

Andrew Sullivan —  Jan 26 2015 @ 5:22pm

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Election guru Larry Sabato finds that slogans are often “simplistic and manufactured, but the best ones fire up the troops and live on in history.” His unsolicited advice for Hillary and Jeb:

The last time she ran for president, then-Sen. Clinton used “The Strength and Experience to Bring Real Change.” That was workmanlike—and boring. At least for the ’16 Democratic contest, she’d be better off with “Let’s Make History Again” coupled with the Helen Reddy tune “I Am Woman.” Don’t forget, about 57 percent of Democratic presidential primary voters are women.

For the general election, if President Barack Obama continues his recent climb in the polls, Clinton might adopt “Keep a Good Thing Going” or—to drive Republicans nuts—she might steal the 1982 Ronald Reagan midterm mantra, “Stay the Course.” If Obama’s popularity nosedives again, Hillary might want to revamp Bill Clinton’s 1992 anthem from Fleetwood Mac: “Don’t Stop Thinking About the Nineties.”

As for Jeb, he might want to try out “Not My Brother’s Keeper”—at least subliminally. He truly needs to be more Jeb than Bush as he attempts to achieve a historically unprecedented family three-peat. The word “conservative” needs to be prominent, given that so many voters in the GOP base think he isn’t. Terms to be avoided at all costs: immigration, common, and core.

Rupert Myers recently looked at political slogans, running down the best and worst of American and British ones of the past few decades. One of the best? The Thatcher-era indictment, “Labour isn’t working”:

[In] 1979, Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Party turned to Saatchi & Saatchi for the campaign slogan and poster [seen above] widely regarded to be one of the finest examples of a successful political slogan. Punchy, operating on more than one level, this is a rare example of an attack ad which works. It’s short, it’s sharp, and it draws contrast between the choices facing the electorate. Imitated by the Republicans in 2012, the slogan “Obama isn’t working” was less successful, a reminder that slogans don’t just have to work as a standalone message, but be dressed for the political climate.