Forward, Not Back

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 30 2012 12:07 PM

Forward, Not Back

Buzzfeed has a little fun with the Obama campaign's new re-elect slogan: "Forward." It's a word previously seen on MSNBC, in the Chinese Communist Party, etc and etc. Because this is a business obssessed with the taste of its own tail, the MSNBC affiliation is the one getting all the attention. But I think I see another antecendent for "Forward." In 2005, Tony Blair's Labour Party faced an election for an unprecedented (for a Labour PM) third term. The Iraq War has eaten into Blair's popularity; there was a sense that his party was tired, that it had disappointed the Left almost as much as it had offended the right. The best thing Blair had going for him was a still-weak Conservative Party, helmed by the unexciting consensus candidate Michael Howard.

And so the Labour campaign began with this ad -- Blair and then-Chancellor Gordon Brown (at the time, a more popular figure) riffing about their accomplishments. The slogan was "Forward, Not Back."

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It's a nice, clean parallel with the Obama slogan, and there's some cross-Atlantic symmetry. For the last year, the Romney campaign's been copping the classic 1979 Conservative Party slogan "Labour Isn't Working," translating it to "Obama Isn't Working," even re-using the image of punk-era Brits queued up in an unemployment line.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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