When he accepted the presidential nomination earlier this month, Barack Obama joked about the nature of modern politics—and the amount of money required to run a media campaign— by saying “If you're sick of hearing me approve this message, believe me, so am I.” There was sustained applause.
The Museum of the Moving Image has a great collection of Presidential campaign advertisements and posted below are a few examples of the lost art of the political jingle. The lyrics in most of these ads aren’t exactly at Cole Porter levels of word-play. A few notable clunkers include: “He is the gov that brings the dove of peace and joy” and “Reachin’ out across the sea, makin’ friends where foes used to be.” But many of them are catchy.
Take this 1952 ad for Adlai Stevenson. The Democratic governor of Illinois may have lost two consecutive Presidential elections, but he did produce at least one hummable advertisement. The show-tunes vote has been an essential swing constituency ever since.
In a discussion about political consulting on today's show, The New Yorker's Jill Lepore noted that the 1952 election was the first to feature television advertising. She told Leonard that "Eisenhower's campaign pays something like 1.5 million dollars on television advertising. [Stevenson] spends 70 thousand dollars and Eisenhower wins in a landslide." Though it seems Stevenson may also have had some name recognition problems:
Dwight Eisenhower did produce jingle of his own which played off the famous slogan “I Like Ike.” It also includes the lyric “Get in step with the guy that’s hep.” -- an assertion I'm sure the beatniks must have loved.
JFK’s 1960 campaign jingle seems to draw much of its strength from simply shouting the name “Kennedy” over and over again. This is foreshadowing something about American media culture, but I’m not sure what.
Steven Valentino produces segments for The Leonard Lopate Show about everything from Guantanamo Bay to Liza Minnelli. He also occasionally contributes to the WNYC newsroom. He graduated from U.C. Davis in 2006 after a two-year stint as general manager of KDVS.
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