I was researching George W. Bush campaign slogans today (um, no don't ask me why) and was a little surprised to hear one sounding approximately two-thirds familiar: "Yes, America Can!"
I've never heard anyone comment on the similarity between the two slogans before. (Maybe people have?) But I was struck by the difference one word—switching "America" to "We"—can make. It changes the whole idea. "America" touches patriotic and nationalist chords, while "Yes, We Can!" is universal but at the same time, personal. Instead of the abstract "America," it's "you and I."
I looked into some other slogans. John Kerry's "Let America Be America Again" sounds plaintive instead of strong, and so it hits the patriotic chords all out of tune. The "let" seems passive and the verb is weak. Bob Dole's "A Better Man for a Better America" sounds faintly judgmental—unsurprising, considering who he was running against. That slogan seems to say he's defining himself by who's he not—NOT Bill Clinton. Coolidge's slogan, "Stay Cool with Coolidge," is practically flippant. A sign of the flapper times?
Anyway, you can blame my current Mad Men obsession for this nerdy blog post. I'm lately fascinated by how advertising and branding tries to touch human emotions and longings. (When Don Draper does an ad presentation for a slide projector, he talks about it taking us "to a place where we ache to go again" and creating nostalgia—"the pain from an old wound." I bawled my eyes out. Twice.)
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