The Symbolic/Unconscious Campaign

» POST #6 :: On the Early Iconography of Certain of the 2012 Presidential Campaign Logos, Considered Alphabetically Brian Thill


At first glance, the typography of the Michele Bachmann campaign would seem to fit well within the standard designs that by now are meant to convey to us that there is lurking somewhere a seriousness and legitimacy attached to this campaign for the presidency: the requisite red and blue, the sober and slender fonts that were so successful for Obama last time, and a couple of red stars bracketing the bottom third for good measure. On some pages these stars are a properly conservative white, while on others they appear decisively red. They are certainly colored so only in order to satisfy certain compositional demands, and should in no way be misinterpreted as being due to any secret Bolshevik sympathies.

The Bachmann campaign imagery wants to indicate to us just how mainstream the candidate is, with its flags, pennants, and bunting layered impasto over every available surface. In this respect it stands as a kind of proto-imagery for American campaigns, earnest and simple, giving attention to surface and image and simulacrum wherever possible, while keeping actual policy or ideology as far in the background and as dimly lit as possible. It is thus the absolutely typical campaign, in every sense of the word.

There is just one small grace note that separates Bachmann’s logo from the field. In place of the horizontal bar connecting the pillars of the H in her name, we are given a frisson of patriotic red-and-white breaking free of its blue alphabetical strictures. You will note, incidentally, that American flags, even in attenuated forms, must always appear to be waving, whipped by the winds of freedom or some other such divine force. The calm rectangular flags are to be left for business lapels or Jasper Johns. This, of course, is why the staged and recreated shot of the soldiers planting the flag at Iwo Jima has permeated American culture far more than the shot of an astronaut on the airless moon standing beside the American flag, both man and flag looking rather stiff and brittle — this despite the fact that the moon is somewhat farther than the South Pacific.

In any event, let the flourish of Bachmann’s H stand for freedom, country, or whatever else the rhetorical grab-bag of faux-populism requires. The rictus of determination the candidate wears directs us to the image’s deeper meaning. In the last analysis, the mark that bridges and transcends the columns of that H looks like nothing so much as a desperate squirt of unsavory toothpaste.


Home Page  Public Email  Twitter  Facebook  YouTube  Github   

Writing since ancient times, blogging, e-commercing, and site installing-designing-maintaining since 2001; WordPress theme and plugin configuring and developing since 2004 or so; a lifelong freelancer, not associated nor to be associated with any company, publication, party, university, church, or other institution. 

One comment on “The Symbolic/Unconscious Campaign

Commenting at CK MacLeod's

We are determined to encourage thoughtful discussion, so please be respectful to others. We also provide a set of Commenting Options - comment/commenter highlighting and ignoring, and commenter archives that you can access by clicking the commenter options button (). Go to our Commenting Guidelines page for more details, including how to report offensive and spam commenting.

Commenter Ignore Button by CK's Plug-Ins

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Noted & Quoted

TV pundits and op-ed writers of every major newspaper epitomize how the Democratic establishment has already reached a consensus: the 2020 nominee must be a centrist, a Joe Biden, Cory Booker or Kamala Harris–type, preferably. They say that Joe Biden should "run because [his] populist image fits the Democrats’ most successful political strategy of the past generation" (David Leonhardt, New York Times), and though Biden "would be far from an ideal president," he "looks most like the person who could beat Trump" (David Ignatius, Washington Post). Likewise, the same elite pundit class is working overtime to torpedo left-Democratic candidates like Sanders.

For someone who was not acquainted with Piketty's paper, the argument for a centrist Democrat might sound compelling. If the country has tilted to the right, should we elect a candidate closer to the middle than the fringe? If the electorate resembles a left-to-right line, and each voter has a bracketed range of acceptability in which they vote, this would make perfect sense. The only problem is that it doesn't work like that, as Piketty shows.

The reason is that nominating centrist Democrats who don't speak to class issues will result in a great swathe of voters simply not voting. Conversely, right-wing candidates who speak to class issues, but who do so by harnessing a false consciousness — i.e. blaming immigrants and minorities for capitalism's ills, rather than capitalists — will win those same voters who would have voted for a more class-conscious left candidate. Piketty calls this a "bifurcated" voting situation, meaning many voters will connect either with far-right xenophobic nationalists or left-egalitarian internationalists, but perhaps nothing in-between.

Comment →

Understanding Trump’s charisma offers important clues to understanding the problems that the Democrats need to address. Most important, the Democratic candidate must convey a sense that he or she will fulfil the promise of 2008: not piecemeal reform but a genuine, full-scale change in America’s way of thinking. It’s also crucial to recognise that, like Britain, America is at a turning point and must go in one direction or another. Finally, the candidate must speak to Americans’ sense of self-respect linked to social justice and inclusion. While Weber’s analysis of charisma arose from the German situation, it has special relevance to the United States of America, the first mass democracy, whose Constitution invented the institution of the presidency as a recognition of the indispensable role that unique individuals play in history.

Comment →

[E]ven Fox didn’t tout Bartiromo’s big scoops on Trump’s legislative agenda, because 10 months into the Trump presidency, nobody is so foolish as to believe that him saying, “We’re doing a big infrastructure bill,” means that the Trump administration is, in fact, doing a big infrastructure bill. The president just mouths off at turns ignorantly and dishonestly, and nobody pays much attention to it unless he says something unusually inflammatory.On some level, it’s a little bit funny. On another level, Puerto Rico is still languishing in the dark without power (and in many cases without safe drinking water) with no end in sight. Trump is less popular at this point in his administration than any previous president despite a generally benign economic climate, and shows no sign of changing course. Perhaps it will all work out for the best, and someday we’ll look back and chuckle about the time when we had a president who didn’t know anything about anything that was happening and could never be counted on to make coherent, factual statements on any subject. But traditionally, we haven’t elected presidents like that — for what have always seemed like pretty good reasons — and the risks of compounding disaster are still very much out there.

Comment →
CK's WP Plugins


Extraordinary Comments

CK's WP Plugins