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.


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