6 Presidential Campaign Slogans That Fell Flat
Puns, rhymes, and catchy phrases do remarkably well in presidential campaigns in the United States, even if they seem a bit cheesy. After succeeding Warren G. Harding upon his death in office, Calvin Coolidge won the 1926 election using the slogan “Keep Cool with Coolidge”. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s slogan in 1952, “I Like Ike”, was so popular that one of his re-election slogans in 1956 was “I Still Like Ike”.
“What [‘I Like Ike’] actually say about its policies? Nothing, but it’s cute, ”says Julia Abramoff, editor and managing editor at Apollo Publishers, who recently published Words to be won by: U.S. Presidential Election slogans, logos and designs. Historically, popular presidential slogans have focused more on being brief, concise, and memorable than on articulating a candidate’s political position.
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Yet sometimes these attempts to be cute border on embarrassment. In 1936, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s opponent, Alf Landon, used slogans like “Let’s make a Landon-Slide” and “Land on Washington”. When Thomas Dewey challenged FDR in 1944, his slogans included “Well, Dewey or not us” and “We are DUE for a change”. Dewey ran for president again in 1948, this time inviting voters to “Dew It with Dewey” (eventually, they did it with Harry Truman).
Here are some more questionable presidential slogans from the history of the United States.
1. “It’s right to leave Taft in the chair”
William Howard Taft won the 1908 presidential election with the help of strong support from incumbent President and fellow Republican Teddy Roosevelt. In the 1912 election, Roosevelt turned against him and formed the Progressive Party (or “Bull Moose Party”) to run for a third term. This made Taft’s second presidential campaign more difficult, especially for a man already opposed to the campaign.
Taft “felt Americans hated him,” says Margaret Kaplan, editorial assistant at Apollo Publishers who worked on Words to win. “He hated being on the election campaign, he always wanted to play golf in his free time, he didn’t like working very much… His slogans, they make me laugh because it’s like he doesn’t even want them not.
One of Taft’s slogans, “It is nothing but fair to leave Taft in the presidency,” seems to say: vote for Taft, he is already president. Campaign buttons, ribbons and advertisements identified him as “The Safest Choice”, and asked him “Why change?” and claimed that Taft “deserves a second term” (as opposed to Roosevelt, who asked for a third). His lackluster campaign won him just 23% of the popular vote, placing him in third place behind dolphin Roosevelt and Democratic winner Woodrow Wilson.
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2. “Make your wet dreams come true”
In 1928, New York Governor Al Smith became the first Catholic to run for president on a major party ticket. Smith was a Democrat and a “wet” candidate, meaning he opposed prohibition. This problem wasn’t just wanting to drink legally again: the nation’s alcohol ban was deeply rooted in anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant prejudices, and the recently re-founded Ku Klux Klan used it as an excuse to terrorize Catholic immigrants across the country.
READ MORE: How Prohibition Fueled the Rise of the Ku Klux Klan
The slogan “Make Your Wet Dreams Come True” referred to the fact that Smith wanted to end Prohibition. But were the sexual innuendos in the slogan intentional? According to Merriam-Webster, the earliest known use of the “wet dream” dates back to 1851. The phrase then meant what it still meant today – meaning yes, the Smith campaign may have known. what she was doing.
Smith lost the election to Republican Herbert Hoover, who had campaigned on a “Chicken in every pot and a car in every garage” pledge. Yet four years later, Hoover’s slogans would become much more lukewarm.
3. “Play Safe With Hoover”
In Hoover’s first year as President, the stock market collapsed and the United States fell into the Great Depression. Hoover’s popularity plummeted as slums, nicknamed “Hoovervilles”, sprang up to house unemployed and homeless Americans.
In the midst of this, 1932 re-election slogans like “Play Safe with Hoover” or “We Are Turning the Corner” probably did not inspire confidence. A pro-Hoover ad showed Uncle Sam riding an elephant in the water and chasing a donkey, and urged voters, “Don’t change now.” This ad referred to Abraham Lincoln’s 1864 Civil War re-election slogan, “Don’t change horses in the middle of a stream.”
Again, that probably wasn’t very convincing because, for Hoover, “the creek was flooding and… the pony couldn’t really trot very well,” Kaplan says. “And then you have a challenger with so much momentum in FDR,” which used the popular song “Happy Days Are Here Again” as a campaign song. (No, that’s not the theme song of Happy Days, but the TV show will make an appearance later in this article.)
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4. “Adlai and Estes – The best”
Democrat Adlai Stevenson actually had a pretty catchy slogan the first time he ran against Eisenhower in 1952. It was “All the way with Adlai,” a slogan Lyndon B. Johnson successfully adapted in 1964. when he asked voters to go “All the way”. with LBJ. ”
When Stevenson ran against Eisenhower again in 1956, he continued to use “All the Way with Adlai”, but he also used more awkward slogans. His campaign song was “We’re Mad About Adlai”, and a button showing him and his roommate Estes Kefauver identified them as “Adlai and Estes – The Best”.
Despite serious questions about Eisenhower’s health and Vice President Richard Nixon’s ability to take the presidency, Eisenhower defeated Stevenson a second time.
5. “In your heart, you know he is right”
The Republican presidential candidate in 1964 was Barry Goldwater, a Tory whose nifty campaign buttons often read “Au H20” (“Au” for gold, “H20” for water). Goldwater had voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act and has been described by Democrats and opponents within his own party as a leader of right-wing extremists. His campaign slogan, “In your heart you know he’s right,” has been interpreted as a nod to extremist views, suggesting that he only said what others believed.
“He had five other catchphrases he was testing, and this one tested the worst of them all, but he was so committed to it,” Kaplan says. Goldwater insisted on using the slogan which has been so poorly tested, and it “immediately drew criticism … because it was a concession of its extremism.”
The LBJ campaign responded with its own slogan about Goldwater: “In Your Guts, You Know He Nuts”. In November, Goldwater lost in a landslide.
6. Happy days are here again [With] Fordzie ‘
Gerald Ford had a lot against him as a Republican presidential candidate in 1976. Ford’s campaign slogan “He makes us still proud” was a clumsy acknowledgment of Nixon’s corruption, and a reminder that Ford had forgiven him. Its efforts to deal with the economic and energy crises have also failed. Critics scoffed at his campaign buttons, which told voters to “WIN” which means “Whip Inflation Now”.
READ MORE: How US Presidents ended up with ‘royal’ power to forgive
Pro-Ford buttons like “A used Ford is better than a new Carter” also didn’t find a catchy way to talk about him or his opponent Jimmy Carter. Probably the most embarrassing example is a button referencing the Happy Days character The Fonz. The pin, which says “Happy Days Are Again”, shows Ford dressed as Fonzie and calls him “Fordzie.”
Nixon had appointed Ford vice president in 1973 after Spiro Agnew resigned for tax evasion, meaning that the 1976 election was the first in which Ford was on the ballot for president or vice president. Because Ford lost to Carter, Ford is the only president in U.S. history who has never been elected to either of the executive positions in which he served.
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