Long Live the President
The first campaign slogan was displayed on sown-on badges and lapel pins.
At The United States’ first presidential inauguration, metal pins bearing the phrase “Long live the president” and George Washington’s initials were worn by his supporters. If “Long Live the President” sounds jarring to our modern ears, it was familiar to newly independent Americans who were used to cheering “Long Live the King”!
The first buttons were so expensive to make that they were more like jewellery and fashion accessories than what would become the disposable modern political button.
“Total eclipse Nov. 6”
Nope, not a new CK perfume. This was a campaign button in 1896, when Republican William McKinley faced off against Democrat William Jennings Bryan. The eclipse refers to the lunar eclipse that year. Campaign pins for McKinley would depict the Democrat’s photo crossing over and “eclipsing” a photo of his Republican rival. Bryan’s campaign did the same, with slogans including: “Total eclipse Nov. 6” and “Partial eclipse will be total in November.”
McKinley and Bryan got lucky, because that year pin-back celluloid buttons patented, meaning they could produce campaign buttons cheaper and quicker. The buttons became so common that private companies began making them to support their favourite candidate – while promoting their product. Soon, buttons were popping up with different colours, designs and catchy slogans.
Supporters of the prohibition against the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcohol were called “drys,” while opponents, like 1928 presidential candidate Al Smith, were called “wets.”
Smith was everything the Drys despised: Catholic, citified, and wet.
“Wouldn’t you like to have your foot on the rail and blow the foam off some suds?” he’d once asked a reporter when he thought he was talking off-the-record. Indeed.
The Prostitute Vote
Will it be John Kennedy or Richard Nixon in 1960? The world’s oldest profession wisely abstains.
Heart or Guts
Republican Barry Goldwater didn’t pull any punches during the 1964 presidential campaign. He famously joked about dropping a nuclear bomb “into the men’s room at the Kremlin”.
So when the Goldwater camp ran with “In Your Heart, You Know He’s Right,” Democratic nominee Lyndon Johnson quickly countered with “In Your Guts You Know He’s Nuts.”
McCarthy for Fuhrer
During the 1960s, “grassroots buttons” were made not by the presidential campaigns themselves, but rather by everyday citizens who wanted to support or bash another candidate.
A typical “negative” button came from the 1968 presidential campaign of Eugene McCarthy, whose critics created buttons with “McCarthy for Fuhrer” printed on them.
In 1972 when George McGovern challenged Richard Nixon for the presidency, Nixon supporters wore tongue-in-cheek buttons that played on their candidate’s nickname.
Nixon’s nickname, “Dick,” was featured prominently on campaign items. At least one of the “They Can’t Lick Our Dick” buttons was given out by the campaign itself!
Sexism and the political campaign
There’s practically a cottage industry in anti-Hilary buttons – but sexist buttons hardly started with her. Eleanor Roosevelt and Lady Bird Johnson didn’t even have to run for office to be attacked.
Sign of the Times?
For a brief period yesterday, an electronic road sign in the Dallas area read: “Donald Trump is a shape-shifting lizard, according to CBS Dallas-Fort Worth!!”
A short distance away a sign urged, “Bernie for President.”
Meanwhile, Stephen Hawking told Good Morning Britain that Trump “is a demagogue who seems to appeal to the lowest common denominator”.
Only one question remains – where are the Lizard King t-shirts?