The Slogan Gap, pt 1 – Clinton’s Terrible Two

Some people have noticed the slogan gap in the just finished election so I think it might be fun to look at and play with them a little. I am not exactly Mr. Semiotico but a few things are, I think, kind of obvious.

But first, an important word (nb this is more a popular than technical definitions)

presupposition – part of the meaning of a sequence of language that is not openly present in said sequence. For example, if I say “Even Doris could get an A in that class!” part of the meaning is that Doris isn’t a very good student and the class isn’t very hard. If I change the word order to “Doris could even get an A in that class!” suddenly Doris is a great student and the class is difficult. All this is accomplished without any word like student or difficult or easy…. Presuppositions differ across languages and within languages across language varieties (and to some extent by speaker). Native speakers of a language variety cannot not hear them while non-native speakers may not understand them (and no textbook does or could explain them so they have to be picked up one by one).

metaphor – saying that something (X) is the same (or similar to) something else when that is not literally true. My love is like a red, red rose does not mean that my love likes standing in manure to grow better or that I cut the head off of my love so that a new head can grow. Human thought is barely possible without metaphor and yuuuge numbers of expressions or ways of describing the world are based on metaphors.

Stronger Together – Okay, my first question is stronger than what? Stronger than we are now? Stronger than we would be with another candidate?

The biggest problem with this is that the timing is off. I actually think this slogan might work for an opposition candidate. The implication is that we are not together now but the candidate will (somehow) bring us together and that will make us stronger. In 2008 this might have worked for Clinton as she was running as a change from the disastrous W presidency.

But in 2016 Clinton was running as the successor candidate not any kind of opposition. She was Secretary of frickin’ State for Obama, why is her slogan a thinly veiled critique of his policies? I almost have the idea that she paid a lot of money for someone to come up with the slogan and she wanted to get her money’s worth out of it.

I’m With Her – Man, what a disaster this thing is. I can’t imagine who this was supposed to appeal to. Maybe female voters so they could imagine they’re palling around with Clinton? But that brings up Sex and City connotations that I really want to avoid.

I’m trying to think of occasions when people might reasonably say “I’m with X” (where X is a person).*

  • In a store when a salesperson approaches and you want to let them know you’re not the shopper?
  • In a restaurant when the hostess is going to lead you to another table?
  • In a restaurant when the waiter wants to know what party you’re with?
  • On a bus or train when the conductor comes around and X has the tickets?

These all reframe the election as a metaphorical consumer event (which it totally is now). But in a clumsy way that doesn’t tie into any impressive idea or greater agenda….

  • Explaining to someone why you are in an unlikely place?

This makes the election the equivalent of a trip to an unfamiliar place.

  • Bragging about the hot date you snagged?

This makes the election about sexual competition (which it totally is now). But it also puts Clinton into the category of hot date (which she most emphatically is not).

  • When your opinion is asked for and you just want to agree with something that someone has said rather than try to create a new one?
  • When you want to express strong agreement?

This seem to be a little better but also takes the voter out of a process they want to be included in. She’s said it all and you don’t have to. Just shut up already! Okay that last is a bit much, but the basic point stands and points to the campaign’s biggest problem: Clinton wanted to make it about her while voters want the election to be about them.

Just a disaster all the way around.

*feel free to suggest other plausible contexts I may have missed

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One Response to The Slogan Gap, pt 1 – Clinton’s Terrible Two

  1. Pingback: The Slogan Gap, pt 2 – Make Political Slogans Great Again | The Worked Shoot

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