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“The land is strong” lives on in Canadian political lore as perhaps the most discordant slogan a party ever took into a federal election.
Canadians were not convinced, and in that 1972 general election the governing Liberals, led by Prime Minister Trudeau the original, nearly rode the slogan to the opposition side of the House of Commons.
Pierre and party managed to hang on with a slim minority, winning just two more seats than Bob Stanfield’s Progressive Conservatives. Stanfield, a Truro native and scion of the unshrinkable underwear empire, remains “the best prime minister Canada never had.”
A decade earlier, south of the border, the Republicans nominated Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater as their presidential candidate. Goldwater was a hawkish anti-Communist who wanted to heat up the Cold War, and the GOP brain trust stuck him with the line: “In your heart you know he’s right.” The Democrats, who were going all the way with LBJ, countered with, “In your guts, you know he’s nuts.” Lyndon Johnson won that 1964 election in a landslide.
Election slogans are a mostly laudable effort by the parties to capture, in a few memorable words, the essence of their pitch to the electorate.
None of the five political parties that claim to be running national campaigns this time around hit it out of the park with their campaign slogans.
The Conservatives served up a slogan that the Twitterverse immediately spit back with an avalanche of all-too-obvious jokes.
The Conservatives had to know when they settled on “It’s time for you to get ahead,” that it would become “It’s time for you to get a head,” and it did. The slightly altered slogan is the object of much social media mirth; a personal favourite being as an order to grave robbers.
“Choose Forward,” is the Liberal Party slogan. It serves as instruction, along the lines of “when you come to the fork in the road, take it,” with which it shares dubious clarity.
Choose forward is actually a negative masquerading as a positive. The Liberals are urging Canadians not to go back to the bad old days of Stephen Harper’s government. Having beat him once, they figure why not have another go, apparently unbothered that the former prime minister isn’t around for this campaign.
The NDP are “In it for you,” and unless their fortunes turn around in a hurry, they could be knee deep in it by Halloween.
The Greens’ slogan, “Not left, not right. Forward together,” is intended to be inclusive of all political leanings and has attracted former New Brunswick New Democrats in ever diminishing numbers. The original 14 becoming nine, then eight and so on.
The People’s Party of Canada — presided over by Maxime Bernier, who must be the first political leader in Canadian, if not world history, to begin a campaign by beating up on a teenage girl — is running with: “Strong and Free.”
Bernier’s verbal assault on 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg is hardly a show of strength, but it does suggest that, in his party, even the leader is “free” to be an ass.
Making sport of political slogans is rather easy and cheap humour. But it’s also a time-honoured political tradition. Political slogans have actually grown tamer and, as a result, more banal over the years.
America has long been the home to great political slogans. There was Ronald Reagan’s “It’s morning again in America,” and Franklin Roosevelt’s “Happy days are here, again,” which took him to the presidency in 1932 at the height of the Depression.
Al Smith, a Democrat who advocated ending prohibition ran for president in 1928, with a line for the ages: “Vote Al Smith, and make your wet dreams come true.” I’m not kidding.
Way back in 1884, when the Republicans learned that their Democratic opponent, Grover Cleveland had fathered a child out of wedlock, they came up with: “Ma, ma, where’s my pa?” Cleveland won the election and Democrats had the last laugh with the response: “Gone to the White House, ha, ha, ha.”
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