by Stan Cutler
When it comes to convention logos, our national political parties will probably create something similar in 2016 to what they designed for 2012.
The Democrats will craft an image that evokes a notion of popular unity around a Presidential candidate. The GOP logo will suggest that voting Republican is patriotic. Both, of course, will be red, white and blue.
In 1948, a limb was removed from an old elm tree to make the official gavel for Sam Rayburn, chairman of the Democratic convention, also held in Philadelphia. When it was handed to him, the presenter claimed that George Washington had seen the tree when he visited the town where it had been standing since the 1780s.
The gavel implied that the man wielding it inherited his authority from George Washington himself. And when we think of the first President, we think of the Revolutionary War, and the Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence, and so on. Powerful symbols penetrate deeply into our memories, attitudes, fears and aspirations. Would the same gavel, wielded by a female convention chairman in 2016, be as powerful a symbol as it was in 1948?
Political parties, as brands, use logos. Deeper symbolism is presented by still and moving images of the candidates. We’ll see candidates with shirt sleeves rolled to the elbows standing in front of smokestacks and mom-and-pop shops. We’ll see them in business clothes speaking to foreign dignitaries. We’ll see them saluting the Stars And Stripes and shaking the hands of decorated veterans. No doubt, the more important politicians coming to Philadelphia will have their pictures taken next to the Liberty Bell. The less important will have to make do with selfies.
We can trust the advertising professionals to probe our deeper nerves in 2016. What history will resonate with us? What images will we like?
Segmentation is characteristic of 21st century campaigning. Relying on Big Data software, the campaigns target us precisely. They know what we buy, for whom we usually vote, where we live. If we ever bought a fishing rod online, we’re likely to receive a glossy brochure in the mail showing a candidate fishing. If we give to the SPCA, we won’t be shown someone trying to kill fish, we’ll be shown someone petting an adoring dog with a parrot on her shoulder. The marketing industry calls a definable population a “demographic.” The demographic that receives full-blown George Washington patriotism gets smaller with each election cycle.
Let’s imagine that we have jobs in one of the advertising agencies that will be paid to produce the campaign images in 2016. We’re looking for images that will evoke patriotic feelings without offending any demographic. Many of these will be historic because more recent events would be polarizing. We’ll have to go back to a good war, perhaps World War Two. Rockets to the moon should work. What about symbols of democracy? Maybe the Declaration of Independence, Independence Hall, and civil rights marches? How about George Washington? Naah – too old-fashioned and too Republican for the younger demographic.
Times have changed. The American flag used to be everyone’s. On the 4th of July, I hang little ones we bought at Kilian’s Hardware, attaching them to the three-flag mount that a previous owner had once screwed into the post holding up the roof of our porch. It saddens me that I don’t see but one or two others on our block. I’m sure my neighbors love America every bit as much as I do. The sad thing is that the symbol that every American used to revere has been appropriated by the Republican Party.
A lot of my fellow Democrats don’t fly the flag that Republicans claim as a partisan symbol because they don’t want people to get the wrong idea. Neighbors, blue and red, unite! Fly the flag! It’s not a Republican symbol, it’s an American symbol. Ask Russell to stock up.
For more on Stan, visit his new website: www.stanleycutler.com.