The presidential election is one year away, and many Americans are already complaining about the candidates.
My complaint is a little different: I find their campaign slogans uninspiring, whether it's "Hillary For America" (Clinton), "Heal, Inspire, Revive" (Carson), "Reigniting The Promise Of America" (Cruz), "Defeat The Washington Machine" (Paul), "Make America Great Again" (Trump), "New Possibilities. Real Leadership" (Fiorina), or that Seinfeldian slogan that says absolutely nothing, "Jeb!"
Sure, there have been some lousy slogans in the past, like "I'm Madly For Adlai" (Stevenson 1952) or ""We Polked you in '44, We shall Pierce you in '52" (Franklin Pierce 1852), referring to James K. Polk, who was elected eight year before.
But many of them have been great, although some of the winners reneged as soon as they were elected. For instance:
"54-40 or Fight!" (Polk 1844), referring to a border dispute with Canada. Polk won but settled the border on much less favorable terms, at the 49th parallel, instead.
"Read my lips. No new taxes." (George H.W. Bush 1988), who, of course, promptly raised new taxes.
"A chicken in every pot and a new car in every garage." – (Hoover 1928), who within a year was presiding over the worst depression in American history.
"He kept us out of war." (Wilson 1916), who took America into World War I six months later.
"Let's make it a Landon-slide." (Landon 1936), who got his wish, although not the way he intended: He lost in the greatest landslide in history up to that time.
And, of course, "Nixon's the One" (Nixon 1968), a slogan that took on ironic meaning during the Watergate scandal.
But some slogans have been sheer genius, including:
"Tippecanoe and Tyler Too" (Harrison 1840), referring to his victory at the Battle of Tippecanoe. His running mate was John Tyler.
"Keep cool with Coolidge." (Coolidge 1924)
"I'm just mild about Harry." (Dewey 1948)
Occasionally we have had dueling slogans, for instance:
"Ma, ma, where's my pa?" (Blaine 1884), referring to Grover Cleveland's admission that he had fathered an illegitimate child.
"Gone to the White House, Ha, Ha, Ha!" (Cleveland 1884)
"No third term." (Willkie 1940)
"Better a third termer than a third rater." (FDR 1940)
"In your heart you know he's right." (Goldwater 1964)
"In your guts you know he's nuts." (Johnson 1964)
And the best presidential campaign slogan of all? Easy: "I like Ike" (1952). Short, sweet and simple. And it rhymes!
But my favorite slogan comes not from a presidential race but the 1991 Louisiana governor's race. On one side: former Gov. Edwin Edwards. He was corrupt through and through, which wasn't much of a problem in a state that has a long history of charming rogues. (He once boasted, "The only way I'm going to lose is if I'm found in bed with a dead girl or a live boy.") But he did have a big drawback: He was a supporter of civil rights. A local newspaper predicted, "The only way he could win would be if his opponent is Adolf Hitler."
His opponent wasn't Hitler, but he turned out to be the next best thing: David Duke, Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and a notorious neo-Nazi.
Edwards' winning slogan: "Vote for the crook. It's important."