IMAGE POLITICS11 Best U.S. Presidential Campaign Posters of All TimeJimmy So05.25.12IMAGE POLITICS11 Best U.S. Presidential Campaign Posters of All TimeFrom Carter as Jesus to Ford as Fonzie, a new Library of Congress book presents the narrative of politics as told through pictures.Jimmy So05.25.12 8:45 AM ETLibrary of Congress11 Great Presidential Campaign PostersLest you think the 2012 presidential campaign is vicious in a way that past races have never been, the Library of Congress enters the fray to prove that the fight has always been brutal. And it’s proving it in pictures. Presidential Campaign Posters: Two Hundred Years of Election Art collects the best election propaganda going back to the 1828 race between Democrat Andrew Jackson and incumbent John Quincy Adams of the National Republican party, which many historians consider the beginning of modern American politics, in part for its savagery. “Some Account of some of the Bloody Deeds of GENERAL JACKSON,” reads one of the first campaign posters in the book, with Adams portraying Jackson as a common murderer. Campaign posters tell you the story of American politics through the years, and how a dignified portrait of the candidate, a catchy slogan, bold graphics, and the selling of the American dream can get you elected. From Andrew Jackson as king, Jimmy Carter as Jesus, Gerald Ford as Fonzie, to Barack Obama as the embodiment of “Hope,” here is the narrative of presidential politics as told through dazzling images. Library of CongressAndrew Jackson vs. Henry Clay, 1832Four years after Jackson defeated Adams, Henry Clay tried to avenge the National Republicans by portraying Jackson as a king, to invoke and recall British royal rule. It backfired, because Jackson had long portrayed himself as the people’s president, and he won 219 electoral votes to Clay’s 49. The earliest campaign posters were black-and-white, but two key features were already in place: a large, recognizable portrait (in this case of the opposing candidate) and short slogans (or an attack: King Andrew the First). Library of CongressAbraham Lincoln vs. Stephen Douglas, 1860Republican candidate Lincoln rose to national prominence after his brilliant performance in a series of debates against Democrat Douglas, and by election time his celebrated image was appropriated to help sell El Biejo Onesto Abe cigarettes, without his permission. Lincoln won 180 electoral votes to Douglas’ 12—even John C. Breckinridge of the Southern Democrats (72) and John Bell of the Constitutional Union (39) got more. Library of CongressWilliam Taft vs. William J. Bryan, 1908Since the 1904 campaign featured two candidates (Theodore Roosevelt and Alton B. Parker) with nearly identical platforms, the Republican Taft thought it important to distinguish himself in a race. That’s not hard at all for the rotund “Bill,” who even looked a great deal like Santa Claus. A memorable public image makes all the difference, and the hitherto relatively unknown Taft beat the Democrat Bryan 321 electoral votes to 162. Library of CongressFranklin D. Roosevelt vs. Thomas E. Dewey (1944)Sometimes a catchy slogan is not enough. “Well, Dewey or Don’t We” might be too catchy, and not very good. It makes the Republican candidate sound indecisive. And it was also the era of radio, and the Democrat Roosevelt’s voice communicated certitude on the airwaves. Roosevelt won 432 electoral votes to Dewey’s 99. Library of CongressRobert F. Kennedy, 1968As the masterful Robert Caro shows in The Passage of Power, his fourth volume of the life of Lyndon B. Johnson, LBJ and RFK had the greatest blood feud in the history of American politics (Garry Wills deftly calls the book not a study of power but a study of hate), and the next volume will likely show how LBJ withdrew from the ’68 race because he feared being humiliated by Bobby—or even being able to keep his cool while facing him. Kennedy was embraced by young voters, and won the California primary on June 4. The murder of Bobby, after the killing of his brother and of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., ended the turbulent but hopeful 1960s and destroyed the energy of the Democratic run. The Republican Richard Nixon triumphed over Vice President Hubert Humphrey, 301 electoral votes to 191. Library of CongressRichard M. Nixon vs. George McGovern, 1972Nixon actually had some of the most colorful and strongly graphic posters in history, yet he ran in the age of television, and lost to John F. Kennedy on that medium. Perhaps he didn’t realize the importance of television until later, but by the late ‘60s and the early ‘70s, he had much weaker candidates to worry about. Nixon beat the Democrat McGovern handily, receiving 520 electoral votes out of 537. Library of CongressJimmy Carter vs. Gerald Ford, 1976Wow. Carter sure had convenient initials. But when an in-depth interview appeared on Playboy shortly before the elections, with Carter admitting that, “I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times,” the image of a messianic Carter might have provided balance in a post-Watergate America where strong moral character was necessary. Library of CongressJimmy Carter vs. Gerald Ford, 1976This has got to be the most pictorially creative election in history, with both sides pulling out all the stops. Ford had to keep his cool in the primaries against California Gov. Ronald Reagan, who portrayed himself as the true conservative. Ford kept his cool, and enlisted Fonzie to help. The Democratic Carter nearly lost the election to the Republican Ford, edging him 297 electoral votes to 240. Reagan would receive a prescient, heralding, one vote. Many Republicans wondered if they had nominated the wrong guy. Library of CongressRonald Reagan vs. Walter Mondale, 1984Four years after Ford’s defeat, Reagan trounced Carter. And four years after that, Reagan trounced the Democrat Mondale. The inspiring tribute to Delacroix didn’t matter here—no amount of Romanticism could help Mondale overcome Reagan, not even if he put himself in the background and let his running mate, Geraldine Ferraro, do the leading. Reagan won 525 electoral votes to Mondale’s 13. Library of CongressGeorge W. Bush vs. John Kerry, 2004George “Walker” Bush practically branded himself in his 2004 reelection campaign, turning himself into “Dubya.” The message seemed to be “simplicity,” in contrast with the sailboat-owning New England elite guy, John Kerry. It seemed to have worked, as Bush squeezed through a victory with 286 electoral votes, winning by 35. Library of CongressBarack Obama vs. John McCain, 2008Perhaps the greatest campaign poster of all time. Graffiti artist Shepard Fairey: “There were a lot of people who were digging Obama but they didn’t have any way to symbolically show their support.” Well, they definitely dug him after this. “Uncluttered … it contains a message of the purest kind … it managed the stunning feat of portraying a black presidential candidate while visually overcoming the ‘otherness’ of being black in America,” writes NPR’s Brooke Gladstone in the preface to Presidential Campaign Posters. Obama beat McCain 365 to 173 electoral votes.