1972–Nixon/McGovern Posters–Stephanie D’Anna
Rhetoric is defined as the art of speaking or writing effectively as the study of writing or speaking as a means of communication or persuasion. Examples of Presidential Campaign Rhetoric are campaign ads, speeches, debates, and political cartoons and posters. One of the most effective forms of rhetoric in my opinion are political cartoons and posters. For my second form of presidential rhetoric in the 1972 Presidential election between George McGovern and Richard Nixon, I am going to focus on political posters. I feel that political posters have a big impact on whether or not people vote for a certain candidate. The political posters are displayed everywhere you look during elections. Think about how many Barack Obama bumper stickers or posters there were during this past election. When you see a poster over and over it makes you remember it and therefore is a successful form of rhetoric and propaganda.
One of the two posters I am going to address is the anti-Nixon political poster that was made and distributed by the McGovern campaign. The poster shows a quote from Richard Nixon, “Those who have had a chance for four years and could not produce peace should not be given another chance”. It also has a cartoon picture of Nixon holding his index finger up, complete with a growing nose like Pinocchio.
To give a little background on the meaning of the quote on the poster, Richard Nixon said this quote during his first term as President of the United States. The quote is from Nixon’s speech on October 9, 1968, which was delivered during the heat of the campaign against Vice President Hubert Humphrey. Nixon was trying to gain votes in the 1968 election in which he ran against Humphrey and won. Humphrey was running for a second term as President and Nixon wanted to persuade the American people to believe that if a President cannot succeed peace in four years, then he does not deserve another chance. Ironically, four years later, during the 1972 Presidential election, Nixon’s very own words were used against him to show him in a negative light.
When searching for a similar poster from Richard Nixon’s campaign against George McGovern, there were none to be found. It seems as though Richard Nixon chose to focus his campaign rhetoric around his previous success as President during his 1968 term. George McGovern seems to focus on the negative aspects of Nixon and bringing him down in hopes of persuading the American citizens to vote against Nixon.
The second political poster that I am going to address is one the Richard Nixon put out during the 1972 election. The poster is called the “Coolness” poster and it looks completely different from McGovern’s. The poster depicts Richard Nixon during his first term in the White House. He is looking out one of the windows in the White House while wearing a suit, with his hands in his pockets and leaning against the wall, casually. The quote on the poster says, “the nation needs coolness more than clarion calls; intelligence more than charisma; a sense of history more than a sense of histrionics”. The relaxed and calm mood of the President as he looks out the White House window suggests the idea that Nixon was a man who could handle the stress of being President in a calm and collected manner.
In comparison to McGovern’s poster, Nixon chose to focus on himself rather than on his competitor. Richard Nixon chose to show an image captured in his days in the White House, which could suggest to voters that he is a credible and capable man that deserves another term in the White House. McGovern chose a different approach. He chose to capitalize on Nixon’s mistakes to make himself look like the better candidate in the election. He took Nixon’s words from a speech he gave years before in a different context and situation, and changed the words to go against Nixon in the present election. George McGovern seems to attempt to bring Richard Nixon down by focusing on his negative aspects rather than on his own positive traits. He did the same thing with his campaign ads during the election in 1972. Whether or not these posters really factored into the outcome of the election, they still somewhat showed the character of each candidate in my opinion. Nixon came across as a positive, optimistic person who had success in the past whereas McGovern seemed desperate to show the public all the reasons they should not trust and vote for Nixon.