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Category: 2012 Election

Campaign Slogans

This post is part of my continuing quasi-coverage of the 2012 presidential election. Also feel free to revisit my thoughts on Obama’s 2012 campaign kickoff and Santorum’s failed first attempt at a slogan.

Deciding on a campaign slogan is not exactly rocket science, but it’s not exactly easy either. Campaigns are just barely getting started and already Mitt Romney has introduced us to the nurdle and Rick Santorum has reminded us why we love Langston Hughes. Concise, memorable, witty: A good campaign slogan won’t get you elected, but a bad one will guarantee defeat.

So before we are bombarded with the slogans of the next class of presidential candidates, I thought it’d be fun to take a look at some of the best (and worst) campaign slogans from America’s past.  Read the rest of this entry »

America being America


O, let America be America again–
The land that never has been yet–
And yet must be–the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine–the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME
Langston Hughes

Rick Santorum, perhaps best known for his infamous Google problem, recently announced his plans to launch a presidential exploratory committee. The tagline from his press release: “It’s time for America to be America again.” As many places have reported, this tagline was appropriated from a Langston Hughes’ poem. Sites like Gawker, Think Progress, and Huffington Post have focused on the too-obvious irony of the crazy, conservative Santorum using a slogan written by a liberal, gay, black man.

But I must say that I find this sort of ad hominem irony to be rather offensive to Langston Hughes and literature in general because it ironizes the man and not the content. What I haven’t seen anywhere is a comment on the irony of the content. Santorum’s slogan “It’s time for America to be American again,” comes with the implicit assumption that we’ve merely lost our way as a country–that at some point in the past America was perfect.

Langston Hughes’ poem satirizes this notion. Sure he says “let America be America again,” but he follows that up immediately with “The land that never has been yet.” There are two ways to take this. One, America will soon be the America that has always been promised from the Declaration of Independence onward. Or, and I believe more likely, Hughes is resigned to America being the America it has always been–home of the poor; home of the disenfranchised; and a home that will never be his.

Rick Santorum has since backed off from the slogan, but it seems to me the real irony here is Santorum not realizing how perfect his “let America be America again” slogan really is.

Obama in 2012: Politics as Usual

We do still think of ourselves as citizens in the sense of being beneficiaries–we’re actually conscious of our rights as American citizens and the nations’s responsibilities to us and ensuring we get our share of the American pie. We think of ourselves now as eaters of the pie instead of makers of the pie. So who makes the pie?” – Pale King, David Foster Wallace

Early last week, President Obama released a video on his website announcing his bid for reelection in 2012. If you haven’t yet, take a moment to watch the video below.

Almost immediately, I began to wonder: 1. Why does this feel so weird? and 2. What, if anything, did Obama do differently in 2008?

The short answer is Obama’s political rhetoric has shifted from instilling an ethic through hard work to glorifying the pose of the everyday ideal American. Put simply: Obama has shifted from substance to symbolism.

Click on for the long answer.
Read the rest of this entry »