Sometimes at night I lie awake and worry about our nation's less successful presidents. How must it feel to attain the highest office in the land and then be remembered as being rather dull, if you are remembered at all. The presidential libraries of Chester Arthur, Millard Fillmore, Warren G. Harding, and James Garfield are all probably having trouble raising funds. If they even have libraries. Calvin Coolidge was keeping me awake the other night. He was veep when Harding popped his clogs (which was the most interesting thing Harding ever did) and then won the presidency for real in 1924. But I couldn't think of one thing Coolidge did in office! I still can't, actually. But, thanks to the White House dot gov's handy biographies of first ladies, I now know that Coolidge may have been a stiff, but his wife, Grace, was a delight. In addition to being a most popular first lady, she was also a psychic knitter. That's right, her knitting predicted the future. Consider this tidbit:
Some one noticed that a bedspread, knitted nearly a year ago by Mrs. Coolidge and intended to be left in the White House, bore a prophecy. On one side was knitted "Lincoln 1861-1865." On the other side; "Calvin Coolidge—1923-1929." Long before President Coolidge announced his "choice," Mrs. Coolidge said, to a friend who exclaimed at her bedspread, "I know what I'm doing."
(It seems the newspapers of the early 1920s were just as obsessed with their President-elect as we are now, and followed his every move) Yes, Mrs. Grace Coolidge was a righteous prophetic knitting babe. I think she could not only see the future, but used yarn to gather useful information and possibly even influence policy. (I mean, look into those eyes. Those are cunning eyes.)
When Grace Coolidge died, a whole pile of knitted blankets were left to the Coolidge estate. Several of them, including one reading "President Barack Hussein Obama 2008- 2016", were considered to be evidence of Grace's descent into madness in her elder years, and were thrown away.
I'm still reeling from the election. Being anxious about it for so long, it's hard to realize its over. Though I am thoroughly relieved, I still have moments of complete panic. Not that I don't have things to freak out about now. How can you deal with a world in upheaval, trying to find a job, and breaking up with your girlfriend? Well, damned if I know. But making stuff has always helped me. I finally finished the cardigan I've been working on since Santa Fe. Turns out, Careful Knitting Nelly is kind of slow! I admit, I got very angry that it wasn't going faster during the second sleeve. I haven't blocked it yet and its kind of covered in cat hair, but it came out very nicely.I also finally finished a scrap hat for Nora. Only took me a year to weave the ends in! Worst part of knitting, as far as I'm concerned. Between Mom and I there is a lot of ugly scrap fabric in the family home, and really nothing to be done with it. I mean, neon fish with overbites might have been a good idea in some designers head- it appealed to 7-year old Nelly- but what to do with stuff like that now? In a fit of the crazies, I bleached and dyed all of it. (On the left is my post college dye kitchen.) Then I tore everything into strips and made a quilt top.
And when you have anxiety, its always good to have something to hide under.
I still can't really believe it. I keep checking the news, expecting some one to demand a recount in Ohio, or complain about biting ballots in Florida. The highest office in the land is one of my favorite things, and only partially because of the endlessly amusing trivia that it provides. I'm excited about our new President. Obama is so smart and collected and balanced, it seems as if I can be proud of the government again. And even if he is unable to live up to my expectations (which are high) at least there will be glamorous photo shoots of the Obama family with their new dog to look forward too.
This campaign has crippled me with worry. What a crazy race, what a peculiar American tradition. The New Yorker had a really good article about the birth of the American Presidential campaign. George Washington seems to have run on the platform of "Oh, I seem to be the only one, don't I?" And until Andrew Jackson, campaigning as we know it was non existent. "Keeping with the tradition of the first five American Presidents, Adams (running against Jackson) considered currying favor with voters to be beneath the dignity of the office, and believed that any man who craved the Presidency ought not to have it." We all know how that worked out. So, in the interest of capitalist democracy, I decided to compile a list of all the Campaign slogans.
1840 William Henry Harrison VS. Martin Van Buren William "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too" " Harrison seems to have coined the first campaign slogan. Van Buren, already having been president for 4 years after Jackson with no such rhyming craziness, seems to have been shocked into defeat.
1844 James K. Polk VS. Henry Clay "Reannexation of Texas and Reoccupation of Oregon" Vs "Who is James K. Polk?" Polk's technique of putting "Re" in front of things that were otherwise really boring beat out Clay's weird rhetorical question. (He's the guy debating you, you moron!)
1848 Zachary Taylor VS Lewis Cass Taylor's "For President of the people" beat Lewis Cass handily. On the other hand, Lewis Cass wasn't very good at his job.
1852 Franklin Pierce VS. Winifield Scott "We Polked them in ’44, We’ll Pierce them in ’52" VS "Old Fuss and Feathers" My all time favorite slogan, a pun that involves violence, way won out over having a weird nickname that makes voters think of angry geese.
1856 James Buchannan VS. John C. Fremont VS. Millard Fillmore In this election, the third party candidate may have only won about .08 electoral votes, but he won best slogan by a mile: "Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Speech, Free Men, and Fremont." Buchanan and Fillmore were so awed that "Fremont" had "Free" in it, they couldn't even think of a slogan. ("Fill more mills with Millard Fillmore?"... No...)
1860 Abraham Lincoln VS. A Bunch of Crazies "Vote Yourself a Farm" VS. incoherent screams Isn't that funny? I don't remember Abe's presidency having much to do with farms.
1864 Abraham Lincoln Vs. George B. McClellan Lincoln's "Don't swap horses in the middle of the stream" was met with a "what can I say, I think he's right" from Mr. McClellan. That and McClellan was kind of a bad general.
After Abe was shot and the Andrew Johnson messed up really badly, there was a short break in campaign slogans. Ulysses S. Grant's could've been "I won the civil war, DUH" but he wasted the opportunity. Rutherford B. Hayes and James A. Garfield were similarly uninspired, probably realizing they were the presidents every one was most likely to forget about.
1884 Grover Cleveland VS. James Blaine Well, after a dry spell Cleveland and Blaine brought it back, with absurd limerick raps that bring delight to history students to this day. "Blaine, Blaine, James G. Blaine, The Continental Liar from the State of Maine!" cried Cleveland. "Oh yeah?" said Blaine, "well, your Ma, Ma, Where’s my Pa, Gone to the White House, Ha, Ha, Ha." In short, it was the most awesome presidential race ever. Candidates should all be forced to debate in rhyming couplets.
1888 Benjamin Harrison VS. Grover Cleveland Benjamin Harrison beat Cleveland with "Rejuvenated Republicanism," probably because everyone fell asleep just thinking about the phase "Rejuvenated Republicanism". Then everyone forgot about Harrison because he was boring and re-elected Cleveland in 1892, because even if he sucked at making slogans, at least his first name was "Grover."
1896 William McKinley VS. William Jennings Bryan McKinley's "Patriotism, Protection, and Prosperity" handily beat William Jennings Bryan's "In a couple of years I'm going to try and disprove Darwin's theory of evolution in a really weird, crazy and public way!"
1900 William McKinley VS. William Jennings Bryan McKinley was obviously feeling confident, because his slogan, "A Full Dinner Pail" is complete nonsense.
Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and first term Woodrow Wilson seem to have still been pondering "A Full Dinner Pail" (a dinner pail? what is that? isn't it supposed to be lunch pail? full of what? full of whiskey? So many questions, so few answers) So they didn't think up anything new.
1916 Woodrow Wilson VS Theodore Roosevelt VS William Howard Taft VS. Eugene V. Debs Woodrow Wilson's slogan, "He kept us out of war" turned out great, especially because as soon as he was re-elected, we went to war!
1920 Warren G Harding VS. James M. Cox Harding played hard defense here, coming up with both "Return to normalcy" and "Cox and Cocktails." I never want things to be normal, and I love cocktails, so these slogans should have worked against Harding. Cox could have turned it around- "That's right! Vote for Cox and get a cocktail!" Of course, this was in the middle of Prohibition, so that probably wouldn't have worked out.
1924 Calvin Coolidge VS John W. Davis "Keep it Cool with Coolidge!" Yeah, that is pretty cool! It didn't make him any more memorable as a president, though.
1928 Herbert Hoover VS Al Smith "A chicken in Every Pot and a Car in Every Garage" and a cushion on every chair and a lover in every bed and whiskey in every bottle! But then the great depression happened, so there was a hobo on every street.
FDR seems to have eschewed slogans, but he had some witty sayings, like the New Deal. Okay, that's not that witty. But FDR is still pretty cool. He don't need no slogans. Harry S. Truman was also sloganless, but I think this would be a good one- "Tough times need a Tru-Man!" Hehe!
1952 Dwight Eisenhower Vs Adalai Stevenson "I like Ike" I didn't think "Ike" was a nickname for "Dwight." Do you think its a nickname for his last name? Do people usually have nicknames for their last names? More mysteries. Even though this slogan rhymes, its kind of inane.
1956 Dwight Eisenhower VS Adlai Stevenson "Peace and prosperity"-- more boring slogans from Ike, and this one doesn't even rhyme. Adlai must have been pissed that he kept losing.
1960 John F. Kennedy Vs Richard Nixon Richard Nixon's was "For the Future." JFK's was "I'm really hot, and so is my wife!" Okay, I made that up.
1964 Lyndon B. Johnson VS Barry Goldwater "The stakes are too high for you to stay at home" said LBJ. "In your heart you know he's right," said Barry Goldwater. Its obvious why LBJ won, because, who even was Goldwater talking about? You know who's right? LBJ? Aren't you running against him?
1968 Richard Nixon Vs. Hubert Humphrey "Nixon's the One" Yes, yes, Nixon is the one who would bring ruin on the white house. Hubert Humphrey is the one with an awesome alliterative name.
1972 Richard Nixon VS George McGovern There were no slogans in this race, instead, the candidates mud wrestled! Okay, I made that up too.
1976 Jimmy Carter VS Gerald Ford "Not Just Peanuts!" said Jimmy Carter. "You mean we get cashews too?" said the American public. "Awesome!" "He's Making Us Proud Again," said Gerald Ford. "He's making who proud?" the American Public asked.
1980 Ronald Reagan VS Jimmy Carter "Are you Better Off than you were Four Years Ago?" asked Ronald Reagan. People scratched their heads and thought really hard about that one. They were thinking so hard, they forgot to vote. Jimmy Carter, busy fighting off an army of swamp rabbits, declined to comment.
1984 Ronald Reagan VS Walter Mondale "It's Morning Again in America!" Nobody wanted to tell him the sun also came up during Carter's presidency.
1988 George H. W. Bush VS. Michael Dukakis George H. W. Bush wanted a "Kinder, Gentler Nation." You know, I might make fun of this, (a kinder, gentler nation full of xenophobic nut jobs??!!) but just having spent the last 8 years with his son, I can say it was, indeed, a kinder, gentler nation back then.
1992 Bill Clinton VS George H.W. Bush VS Ross Perot Bill Clinton courted the votes of Fleetwood Mac fans everywhere, with his sing songy slogan. "Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow." Ross Perot inspired general awe for his craziness, summed up best by his slogan: "Ross for Boss".
1996 Bill Clinton VS Bob Dole "Building a Bridge to the 21st Century" VS "The Better Man for a Better America" That bridge was a bridge to no where! I said it. I tried not to, but I had to.
2000 George W. Bush VS Al Gore "Compassionate Conservatism" won, because people didn't know what it meant. Scary republicans were going to go to war with random countries, over turn Roe V. Wade and beat people in the streets. And yet they called in compassionate? Did they apologize after throwing rocks through your windows? Gore's "Prosperity and Progress" was much less intriguing.
2004 George W. Bush VS John Kerry "Yes, America Can!" said George W. Bush. "Yes, America can actually elect an overzealous, incompetent, inarticulate war mongering freak to for a second term!" "Hey now!" said Kerry, "Let America be America Again!" "No!" said Bush. And it was not to be so.
2008 Barak Obama VS John McCain Well, personally, I am very glad that "The Change we Need" won out over "Drill, Baby, Drill." I would much rather have health care than an infant with a power tool. I'm just saying.