October 22, 2007

Slogan gap?

It's seven to two, in favor of the Republicans.

After the discussion of an obscure British politician's slogan, I wondered about the current crop of American presidential slogans. I've been following the campaign fairly closely, but somehow none of the current candidates' catchphrases have registered with me. I couldn't bring a single one to mind.

So I checked.

The Republicans:

John Cox: [apparently no slogan]
Rudy Giuliani: "Strong Leadership. Proven Results."
Mike Huckabee: "Faith. Family. Freedom."
Duncan Hunter: [apparently no slogan]
Alan Keyes: [apparently no slogan]
John McCain: "Courageous Service  Experienced Leadership  Bold Solutions"
Ron Paul: "Hope for America"
Mitt Romney: "True Strength for America's Future"
Tom Tancredo: "For A Secure America!"
Fred Thompson: "Security. Unity. Prosperity."

The Democrats:

Joe Biden: [apparently no slogan]
Hillary Clinton: [apparently no slogan]
Chris Dodd: [apparently no slogan]
John Edwards: [apparently no slogan]
Mike Gravel: [apparently no slogan]
Dennis Kucinich: "Strength through Peace"
Barack Obama: [apparently no slogan]
Bill Richardson: "Change and Experience"

So 7 of 10 Republican candidates -- and all the serious ones -- have slogans; but only 2 of 8 Democratic candidates -- and none of the front-runners -- do.

Among the 9 slogans in both parties, there is not a single verb (leaving out the quasi-adjectival participle forms proven and experienced).

Three slogans include periods ("Strong Leadership. Proven Results." "Faith. Family. Freedom." "Security. Unity. Prosperity.")  One has an exclamation point ("For A Secure America!"). Six have no punctuation ("Courageous Service  Experienced Leadership  Bold Solutions" "Hope for America" "True Strength for America's Future"  "Strength through Peace"  "Change and Experience").

Bill Richardson has an underlined word ("Change and Experience"), but there are no italics.

This is a pretty feeble collection (of slogans, I mean). Back in the day, we used to have verbs in our presidential campaign slogans: "Give 'Em Hell, Harry!"; "He kept us out of war"; "I like Ike"; "In your heart, you know he's right"; "Turn the Rascals Out"; "Win with Wilkie".

Wikipedia has a list. A striking slogan that I didn't know: "Hoo but Hoover?" It carried the day in 1928.

[Update -- Lane Greene submitted a quotation from Dave Barry Slept Here:

"EXTRA CREDIT: Try to think up a campaign slogan even more inane than 'I Like Ike'. Hint: This is not possible."

I hate to disagree with Dave Barry, whose linguistic judgments are generally impeccable, but I always thought that "I like Ike" had a certain poetic concision.]

[Update #2 -- Charles Neveu writes:

Regarding the Slogan Gap, Kinky Friedman has a number of slogans, so maybe they will bring the average up.

When he was running for Governor of Texas, one of his slogans was "How Hard Can It Be?"
Another, courtesy of Molly Ivins was "Kinky Friedman: Why the hell not?"
Another, having to do with the idiosyncrasies of Texas election law: "Save Yourself For Kinky"
Suggested by a fan: "He never broke his word to the Indians"

I'd give citations, but you can google Kinky Friedman Slogans as well as I can.

They reminded me of the Birthday Party's Nobody For President campaign, whose 2008 slogan is "Nobody Speaks For Me".

I remember some of their other slogans:

Because Nobody Should Have That Much Power
Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen
Nobody Loves You When You're Down and Out ...

And remember, Nobody's a bigger fan of LanguageLog than me.


Posted by Mark Liberman at October 22, 2007 06:07 PM