James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association, a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media, and a professor of communication studies at Whitworth University.

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Obama slogan too common to be communist, too dull to be radical

Posted by James McPherson on May 1, 2012

Forward.” As the new Obama slogan? Really? The MSNBC version may be slightly worse, and unlike Joe Scarborough I doubt that this was a case of theft. More likely is that few in the Obama campaign–like relatively few elsewhere in America–actually watch MSNBC often enough to recognize its slogan. But still … “Forward”?

The slogan might made sense if any the flailing conservative wing of GOP competitors had fared better in the primaries, since “Forward” would look much better in contrast to the obvious conservative slogan of “Backward.” But now? It’s like the Obama folks know that victory will be so easy that they can save the really good slogans for Hillary in 2016. Maybe as a “thank you” for her service as Secretary of State and as an inept 2008 campaign foil.

Speaking of “foil,” the slogan has generated an interesting meme among the tinfoil hat club who think that everything Obama does is part of a communist plot. The Moony-tunes Washington Times showed its usual journalistic quality by relying on Wikipedia to claim in a headline, “New Obama slogan has long ties to Marxism, socialism”–and, predictably, Fox Nation and Glenn Beck were even lazier in then picking up the Washington Times piece. Sadly, the once-proud National Review continued to disgrace the memory of founder William F. Buckley by also “reporting” from Wikipedia.

One of Andrew Breitbart‘s nasty spawn joined in on the May Day Parade (see how I did that?). London’s political equivalent of the Washington Times, the Daily Mail, did so from abroad. And of course, various bloggers (also here, here, here, here, here and here for sampling) jumped on board. Not to be outdone, you can always count on the occasional goofball blogger to find a Nazi connection, even if Beck is no longer on Fox News to help diagram it on a bizarre chart.

The communist/socialist tie is just nutty, of course, as pointed out by Mediaite and ThinkProgress (both organizations that come closer to having socialist views than does the current conservative in the White House), unless Koch brothers buddy Scott Walker heads a socialist state. The big problem with Obama’s slogan isn’t it’s political perspective–it’s the boring lack of any meaningful perspective. Even Chrysler came up with a better slogan for Obama–though I suppose the problem there is that there’s no “o” in “halftime” to turn into an Obama symbol.

Washington Post blogger Alexandra Petri has perhaps the best critique of the slogan, noting, “On average, President Obama’s slogans are pretty good. This is to say that his last slogan was extraordinary and this one is abjectly terrible.”

Same-night update: Rachel Maddow covered the same issue tonight, citing many of the same sources.

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5 Responses to “Obama slogan too common to be communist, too dull to be radical”

  1. Reuel said

    No “o” in halftime. “Yes we can” had no “o” in it either. But if you listen to “o” speak these days it is all about him and the heck with the rest of the people in Washington, including the ones in his own party. His is a all for one person and that one is him. I have a feeling this years is going to include a bunch of Executive Orders as the one he did for the speech the other day for the military and schools gouging them. No I do not think he is communist or socialist, I visited Romania in the early 1980’s and we are a long ways from what the tinfoil club believe. To think that is even possible here is a lunacy. Oh well there I go again bashing and supporting “O” again. I just hope he ends up with a republican congress to keep him in check. It worked for President Clinton and the country then. Yes forward is a lame slogan.

  2. James McPherson said

    “I just hope he ends up with a republican congress”

    I think he will. I wouldn’t be surprised to see both houses with GOP majorities–not that it matters much, with the supermajority now required to get anything through the Senate. If Republicans win every open Senate seat, they still won’t have 60–and I can’t imagine that a Democratic minority will be any more accommodating than the GOP minority has been when it comes to process. Thanks.

  3. Reuel said

    The web is alive with the “Forward” comment. Now I know why you posted about it. Yeppers break out the aluminum foil, its going to be a long 199 days. I also just think we can learn from what happened the late 1990’s and just work together.But I think we have elected officials with long term memory lost syndrome.

  4. Unfortunately, certain right wing hacks never let a fact get in the way of a good talking point.

  5. James McPherson said

    Ain’t that the truth? Though, sadly, I’ve found that it’s not just a righty affliction; perhaps you saw this: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-challenge-to-obama-and-romney-deliver-one-truthful-campaign-speech/2012/05/04/gIQArMV21T_story.html

    Thanks for the comment from the Far North, Dan.

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