Election Day is finally here, and I thought it would be fun to explore some of the campaign posters from past presidential elections. All of the posters featured here are in the collection of the Library of Congress and included in their new book Presidential Campaign Posters: Two Hundred Years of Election Art.
There are some intriguing images here—Jimmy Carter being depicted as Jesus Christ, the above parody poster for the Nixon campaign, the Gerald Ford Happy Days send up, and Geraldine Ferraro shown as Lady Liberty. It’s a riveting glimpse into the American mindset (or at least into the cultural assumptions of the day and which ideas could be exploited by the artists designing these posters).
It’s interesting how propaganda is blatantly obvious from the viewpoint of hindsight, but not as easy to spot when we’re in the thick of it. Humor and parody, on the other hand, isn’t always as simple to decipher as time passes and we lose the cultural context. (The below poster of Truman by Ben Shahn is a good example. Without knowledge of the original Lauren Bacall photograph, the meaning is hard to decode).
I love this “sideways” perspective on Presidential politics. When we look back at the election of 2012 years from now, I wonder what will stand out as our most embarrassing moment as a country? Which campaign claims and advertisements will make us shiver in hindsight?
I’m heading to my local polling place now to vote. Please don’t forget to exercise your right to vote today!
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