The world’s greatest and worst political slogans
A group of marketing gurus last week voted for the best five US presidential slogans ever. The results were, in order, "A New Deal for the American People" (Roosevelt, 1932); "It’s Morning Again in America" (Reagan, 1980); "I Like Ike" (Eisenhower, 1952); "It’s the Economy, Stupid" (Clinton, 1992); and "Yes, We Can!" (Obama, 2008).
Short, sweet and memorable. But they made me depressed. It reminded me just how different Asia is when it comes to witty leaders. In China, the most famous presidential slogan is: "The three represents." Huh? The three represents what? Something’s clearly missing—I suspect it’s the speechwriter’s brain.
South Asian political slogans lack pizzazz. In India, we had: "Congress is with the common man." In Sri Lanka, a cliché: "A brighter future". In Bangladesh, we had "Wake up Bangladesh"— rather insulting. So they reckon all their people are snoring? In Indonesia, the president’s reelection slogan was "Continue!" which sounds like a school master announcing that the maths lesson is going to be a double-period. Groan. The most famous political slogan in Malaysia’s history is: "Malaysian Malaysia."
Mind you, America may have cooler political slogans than Asia, but that doesn’t make their leaders better wordsmiths. Take former US Vice President Dan Quayle for example. "The holocaust was an obscene period in our nation’s history," he told a baffled audience. "No, not our nation’s, but in World War II. I mean, we all lived in this century. I didn’t live in this century, but in this century’s history." When someone pointed out that he was talking complete rubbish, he argued that he sometimes got things right. "I have made good judgments in the past. I have made good judgments in the future." Okay. Right.
Quayle paved the way for the coming of George W Bush, who set new standards in talking nonsense: "Families is where our nation finds hope, where our wings take dream," Bush told amazed listeners. And just in case his stance wasn’t clear, he went into detail on his key policy agenda: "I know that the human being and the fish can co-exist."
Huh? When the world’s biggest nations and most powerful individuals can’t handle words, one may be tempted to despair. But fear not! Salvation comes from the activists of the world, who regularly show genuine sharp wit. The Anarchists slogan was: "Bigger cages! Longer chains!" (In case Mr Bush is reading this, this is called irony.)
But I’d give the top prize to the protestors against the World Trade Organization. Realizing that demonstrators tend to shout three-word phrases such as "Save the whale" or "[Name] get out", this group marched through Seattle in 1999 shouting: "Three word chant. Three word chant."
Your humble narrator once met a guy designing "Vote for me" posters for his college election. Everyone thought he was a really boring guy, and expected him to lose. I redesigned his poster to be a tad ironic. The revised version said: "Vote for the other guy. (Only joking!!!)"
The new poster changed his image and he made loads of new friends (two). He still lost the election, which kind of spoils my anecdote, but, hey, life ain’t easy. What can you do? Wake up. Let your wings take dream. Continue!
*Send ideas and comments via www.mrjam.org