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Political Campaign Slogans

Posted by Megan Rohleder on Oct 6, 2022

By: Ethan Anderson, Government Records Archivist

President William Henry Harrison did not leave behind many long-lasting legacies when he died suddenly of pneumonia in 1841, except of course, a reminder to always dress appropriately for the weather. He did, however, leave the political world with a slogan far more memorable than his presidency: “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too!” Since then, politicians at the local, state, and national level have all tried, with varying degrees of success, to find the perfect campaign slogan to capture the hearts, minds, and most importantly votes of the electorate. With the November elections fast approaching, here are a few of our favorite campaign advertisements from the collection.

The excitement in the above ad for Omar Ketchum could fit inside a Sandhill plum. Vote for Ketchum! Is he a great leader? Is he a fantastic candidate? Is he the best man for the job? Well, no, but at least he’s ok. If Ketchum were running for Governor of Oklahoma, “Ketchum Is O.K. For OK” would be a fine slogan, but it’s easy to see why Kansas voters were somewhat unenthused by his campaign. Ketchum went on to win the Democratic primary but lost to incumbent governor Alf Landon in the November 1934 election.

What’s in a name? Well, if you’re running for political office, sometimes plenty of fodder for the opposition. Case in point: Sam Hardage. Today, we can only imagine Hardage getting skewered by messages like “Hardage? Hard Pass” or “Hardage = Hard Times.” Kansans apparently found him a hard sell in the gubernatorial campaign of 1982, where he lost to incumbent governor John Carlin. Talk about hard ache.

 

What a difference four years makes. In 1928, Herbert Hoover and Topekan Charles Curtis were able to coast to victory behind the slogan “Vote to Continue Prosperity.” By 1932, the stock market had lost 80% of its value, the economy had contracted by one-third, and one quarter of all Americans were unemployed.[1] Though the causes of the Great Depression were numerous and cannot be blamed solely on the two men, it is safe to assume their reelection campaign in 1932 featured a far less rosy message. They wisely steered clear of the banner “It Wasn’t Our Fault,” but still lost in a landslide to Franklin D. Roosevelt.

 

A few things caught our eye about this 1972 campaign brochure for Morris Kay: the odd overuse of ellipses, the 50-year-old issues still relevant today, such as renewable energy, infrastructure, and removing the sales tax on food. But the thing that struck us most was the simple and effective slogan “Kay for Kansas.” Unfortunately for Kay, the ad wasn’t enough to convince the majority of Kansans that he was a diamond in the rough. We’d like to think that after his 1972 defeat by incumbent governor Robert Docket, Kay went into the jewelry business and morphed this slogan into “Every Kiss Begins with Kay.”

Whenever we see this campaign brochure for Attorney General Bob Stephan, we can’t help but think of Shania Twain’s 1997 hit single “You’re Still the One.” Though Stephan ran for office 11 years before that song’s release, you’ll have to wait until our fan mail is answered before we can definitely declare the song was not written about Shania Twain’s favorite Midwest Attorney General. Stephan was victorious in November 1986, which we assume inspired Shania to pen another one of her hit songs: “You Win My Love.”

Speaking of politicians preempting elements of pop culture, Mike Hayden’s “I Like Mike” campaign preceded Gatorade’s “Be Like Mike” commercials featuring basketball superstar Michael Jordan by five years. Hayden’s campaign undoubtedly harkened back to Dwight Eisenhower’s 1952 “I Like Ike” campaign, so how forward-thinking it truly was is up for debate. Nevertheless, Hayden’s slogan proved just as effective as Eisenhower’s and Gatorade’s and he went on to win the 1986 election against Tom Docking.

Please remember to vote this November 8th!

Sources:

[1] David C. Wheelock, “The Great Depression” (lecture, St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank, St. Louis, MO, July 11, 2013). 


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