President Obama's iconic 2008 slogan, "Change We Can Believe In," isn't a good fit for an incumbent, so this week, Team Obama rolled out what appears to be the official word of Obama 2012: "Forward." This isn't the first trial-balloon slogan Obama and his surrogates have trotted out, however. Here's a nostalgic look back at five catch phrases Obama auditioned, then pulled offstage:
1. Win the Future
Team Obama broke out "Win the Future" in January 2011 to frame his State of the Union address and fiscal 2012 budget. "He used the phrase (or a variant) 11 times" in his State of the Union address, says John Dickerson at Slate, but he was wise to drop it soon afterward. Win the Future "sounded more like the title of a self-help seminar, with Obama in the role of Tony Robbins," than a governing vision. There's also "that whole 'WTF' acronym to work around," says Jazz Shaw at Hot Air.
2. We Can't Wait
This slogan appeared in October 2011, as Obama's American Jobs Act floundered in Congress and he rolled out a series of initiatives aimed at unilaterally boosting the economy. Obama came up with this phrase himself, and it wasn't bad, says Jonathan Chait at New York, but he needed to "hit the theme a little harder" if he wanted it to stick. After months of pushing "We Can't Wait" measures, and using them to throw jabs at a do-nothing Congress, Obama wasn't even able to make "high information voters" aware of the slogan.
3. An America Built to Last
The White House unveiled this phrase as the theme of Obama's 2012 State of the Union address. And thank goodness it didn't last, says Lee Siegel at The Daily Beast. The slogan, apparently lifted from old Ford or Chevy ads, had a "weaselish quality" — instead of "framing a political vision," it was "clearly" meant to address the swing voters in states like Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, the heartland of the U.S. auto industry. Obama can't be all poetry, but "borrowing from decades-old car commercials is a new rhetorical low, and a futile one at that."
4. Greater Together
Team Obama launched the "Greater Together" initiative in October 2011 to reconnect with young voters, who came out in force for him in 2008. He has since used it to rally different parts of the Democratic coalition, says Neil Munro at The Daily Caller. As a slogan, "Greater Together" is pretty underwhelming. It seems like it belongs in an ad for Reese's Peanut Butter Cups — "Two great tastes that taste great together" — and it may turn off independents. Plus, "Greater Together " suggests "the collective is more powerful than individuals," says Mike Franc of The Heritage Foundation.
5. We Don't Quit
At a February fundraiser in California, Obama seemed to almost dismiss the whole idea of slogans, before testing one at the end of his speech: "Inspiration is wonderful, nice speeches are wonderful, pretty posters, that's great. But what's required at the end of the day to create the kind of country we want is stick-to-it-ness. It's determination. It's saying, 'We don't quit.'" Hmmmm, "I suppose I could see using, 'We don't quit'," says Hot Air's Shaw, except that "it lends itself immediately to a follow-up line of, '... so I guess we'll have to fire you.'" Booyah!
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why you shouldn't eat dog. Not even once.
- Why Israel can no longer let the Palestinian Authority be responsible for security in the West Bank
- How U.S. special forces are preparing for the worst-case scenario in North Korea
- Why you should really take a nap this afternoon, according to science
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- How social conservatives became a minority in need of protection
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Why charity can't solve society's deepest problems
- Grammar quiz: Do you know the passive voice?
- I hate Ayn Rand — but here's why my fellow conservatives love her
Subscribe to the Week