Beware of Slogans

A few days ago I wrote a column on my blog #189 “Hope and Change.” My point was and still is that presidential slogans can be dangerous to Americans. Slogans like “Hope and Change” and “New Deal” can give hope to the idea of a better world and sometimes a new moral high ground that just doesn’t come to fruition.

While writing #189 I did some research on presidential campaigns other than the two I mentioned above and I found some sometimes amusing sometimes scary slogans that I thought you might want to think about.

In my list of slogans let me start with the Nixon slogan “They can’t lick our Dick.” There is nothing redeeming about this one!
Following along with “Keep the ass off the White House grass it’s all Dewey”, no explanation needed. How about “We Polked you in [18] 44. We will Pierce you in [18] 52!” Franklin Pierce must have been desperate! In 1932 the democrats somewhat whistling through the valley of the shadow of death said “Happy days are here again.” How about Ulysses S. Grant when he said, “Grant us another term.” Then there was Al Smith who said; “Vote for Al Smith and make your wet dreams come true.” I have no idea what he meant and I don’t think I want to find out. One scary slogan for the country was from Barry Goldwater who said; “In your heart you know he’s right” and that made some people shiver. Some of the slogans were a lot easier to understand like “John Kerry, the real deal” but that statement in retrospect might not fly today. Of course we all remember “Keep cool with Coolidge” and Clinton-Gore “Putting people first.” One of my favorites “Are you better off than you were four years ago” is not because it was Regan but rather because it is a question any cub reporter can ask in every presidential election year and most presidents [if they are honest] will have to answer no!

My point is that when taken seriously slogans like “The new Deal” and “Hope and Change” can lead to government decisions with far reaching and often bad results for the public and the impact of those decisions can last for decades.

Take the new deal from FDR. FDR ended prohibition, created the TVA and instituted the National Recovery Act that guaranteed people could form and join unions and have bargaining powers among other benefits. He created jobs like the CCC and gave WPA work to artist, musicians, and writers in addition to dirt and shovel projects that opened new work opportunities in a country suffering from over 25% unemployment. In 1935 FDR created Social Security. What the public often forgets is that much of the “New Deal” was adding government control to the public’s life and more importantly it didn’t actually turn the economy around. Of course FDR ran into problems with the Supreme Court and his opponents pointed out the socialist aspects of his “New deal.” However it is clear that of all the good things FDR brought to the administration it did not halt the financial depression. All of the “good things” FDR was doing made the public “feel good.” The facts were and still are that the Second World War bailed our economy. Possibly more important was that with the creation of Social Security he trained the public to believe that the government could better manage the public’s life by federal administration of the public’s own money. Right now we talked about the public being divided about 50-50 on less government verses more government controls. I’m inclined to side with the less control because I believe we have seen the track record of federal government controls for the most part resulting in inefficiencies and huge losses for the government as well as individuals. And while all the “New deal” programs contributed to the movement to federal government control including the TVA, WPA, even the CCC the net results of the “New Deal” is the public has become comfortable with the federal government managing large aspects of their respective lives.

The theme of dangerous slogans continues today with the one that got Barak Obama elected president in 2008, “Hope and Change” and its many reiterations. Clearly Barak’s efforts to change the immigration program in this country by tearing down the rules that have governed based on constitutional law, creating Obamacare to further bring a socialist approach to managing the public’s health care, recasting our foreign policy intending to reduce our influence on international issues and our involvement in international disputes, making climate change a major national focus and 100% payment for community college education programs just to name a few. In my blog #189 “Hope and Change” I cover these items in some detail as I review what Barak’s legacy is or as he would wish to see it. The point of revisiting the “New Deal” was to point out the far reaching implications of what sounded like a good deal for American citizens, and the same holds true for “Hope and Change.”

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