Here at Catchword, distilling a company or product’s being into a word or two is what we do. That’s what naming is all about. And so we take great interest, come election open season, when a bevy of politicians and their strategists try do the same: capture a candidate’s essence in a salient soundbite. Here’s a roundup of all the presidential hopefuls’ slogans, loosely ranked from worst to best. If you disagree with me, or I’ve missed a candidate, don’t hesitate to let me have it in the comments.
12) Martin O’Malley: Rebuild the American Dream.
O’Malley’s slogan also plays it very, very…*yawn*…safe, with shopworn campaign buzzwords. Also, using the very physical metaphor of building threw me slightly—Rick Santorum’s “Restore” is much more intuitive—but other than that, well, that’s really it. A very forgettable slogan, and can I just say that “American Dream” is like Selfie for me. I’m tired of seeing it everywhere.
11) Lincoln Chafee: Fresh Ideas for America
Did Chafee stop at Whole Foods before coming up with this one? I begrudgingly accept the adjective, though I hope Mr. Chafee keeps his ideas under misters to actually keep them fresh. Other than that, this slogan is pretty bland and really could belong to anyone.
10) Rick Santorum: Restore the American Dream for Hardworking Families.
Yet another slogan straight out of the grab bag of generic terms. It does carry a hint of Santorum’s anti-welfare agenda by stressing “Hardworking” families instead of saying Middle Class or simply Working Families, terms which other politicians employ. But beyond that one word choice, the rest of it is extremely white-bread and generic.
9) Ted Cruz: Reigniting the Promise of America.
Cruz is really scraping the bottom of the barrel for unused “re-“ words here! Reignite makes America’s Promise, whatever that is, feel like a fire or an engine. I would have been less puzzled with just Reignite America, but at least Promise of America is a new way of evoking the American Dream. Overall, it is a safe, simple slogan that suggests one of the most prevalent conservative messages: a return to older values.
8) Carly Fiorina: New Possibilities. Real Leadership.
“Real Leadership” refers most saliently to Carly’s experience in the business world, and perhaps is an attempt to assure people that her lack of political leadership isn’t a liability. She got that part right. But, “New Possibilities?” I think that whole clause is a waste of space. Possibilities don’t imply progress or action, they just imply, well, possibilities. Generally, it’s a bit clunky, and my main question is, if you insist on saying “New Possibilities,” why put it in that order? Why not hit us first with Real Leadership as the foundation, and THEN say New Possibilities? Doesn’t that make more sense?
7) Ben Carson: Heal. Inspire. Revive.
I like this slogan for its unique form, and it certainly fits with Dr. Carson’s medical background. But the order, to me, is wonky. We read left to right, and we expect what we read to build on itself. I’m on board with healing which leads to inspiring…but revive, shouldn’t that come before heal? Don’t you need to be alive to be healed? I understand that “Revive” is supposed to be metaphorical, but because of the word heal, and the fact that he is a doctor, we’re primed to think of it in terms of medicine, and I just don’t see “Revive” being the logical third step.
6) Rand Paul: Defeat the Washington machine. Unleash the American dream.
Will this fit nicely on a yard sign? Though Rand Paul does kind of put the “slog” in “slogan,” the length of his mantra is tempered by the rhyme (albeit a slant rhyme). It uses pretty combative language that feels like it could have been inspired from a Metallica lyric, but is memorable and does certainly match his style.
5) Lindsay Graham: Ready To Be Commander-in-Chief On Day One
This slogan gets an A for fidelity to the candidate and their goals. Commander-in-Chief suggests first of all the president’s role as head of the military… and says clearly that Graham is ready to step into office and start moving troops. And that’s exactly Graham’s platform—he’s a war-hawk, and his candidacy is predicated on fixing, with force, international turmoil. Actually, Commander-in-Chief sounds pretty despotic here if you ask me, but those are his guns and he’s sticking to them.
4) Hillary Clinton: Hillary for America
Unlike everyone else, Hillary can’t disparage previous administrations, first of all because she’s a Washington insider, and also because Bill Clinton’s presidency is still in everyone’s mind and proving to be a big asset to her campaign, especially among minorities. And so she doesn’t use “New” or “Fresh” or “Rebuild” or “Restore” or “Revive” or “Reignite” or “Revolution”… you get the idea. But that point of difference actually makes her slogan stand out, because that’s what everyone else is doing. And ironically, unlike many other slogans with “evocative” words like “hardworking” and “American Dream” and “promise,” the void of evocative words in this slogan doesn’t actually make it feel empty, because it doesn’t use the words that all the others are using. The content comes from “Hillary,” and that’s a word that she and she alone owns. Also, the use of her first name works to make her seem more personable, something she has occasionally struggled with.
3) Bernie Sanders: A Political Revolution is Coming
This slogan fits Sanders perfectly. It distances himself from all other candidates and the current political imbroglio, and is brazenly confident. As a “long shot” candidate, this confidence is extremely necessary, and doesn’t appear to the same degree in any other slogan. Most memorable, however, is how shocking “Revolution” is, though he smartly included that word “political” which tempers (somewhat) any potential suggestions of violence or the idea of a revolution a la Marx. He is running a no holes barred, full throttle campaign, and this slogan is perfect for him.
2) Mike Huckabee: From Hope to Higher Ground
Here’s a clever, layered slogan. Hope refers both to Hope, Arkansas, where Huckabee was born, and to President Obama, whose 2008 campaign heavily relied on the word “Hope.” And, though Higher Ground does generally imply progress and improvement, it has a distinctly religious undertone, which speaks to his most steadfast supporters and his own moral guide and political underpinnings. Yes, it is also the name of his book, but auto-plagarism is not a crime, so no points lost there.
1) Marco Rubio: A New American Century
This is a remarkable, evocative slogan, and it all hinges on “Century.” Not only is the simple unexpectedness of that word brilliant, it capitalizes on the impatience and weariness Americans have with constant battles over politics and policy. It says, if we just get things settled right now, it can last us 100 years, and we won’t have to worry about America and everything that America entails. And wouldn’t that be nice! Regardless of whether that’s possible, Rubio has a sophisticated, inspiring slogan.