Jews and Campaign Buttons: A Time-Honored Tradition

a selection of Jewish-themed campaign buttons 1940-2016

a selec­tion of Jew­ish-themed cam­paign but­tons 1940–2016

A briefer ver­sion of this blog post, with few­er illus­tra­tions, was pub­lished as “Ten Min­utes of Torah” on Octo­ber 27, 2016 on ReformJudaism.org.

Strangers don’t often inter­act on New York’s streets. Yet, this elec­tion sea­son, I am often stopped and asked about my polit­i­cal lapel but­ton.

Gen­er­al­ly, I have found that while col­lege stu­dents and 30-some­things wear lapel but­tons for many caus­es year-round, old­er adults tend to do so only in elec­tion sea­sons. It is not sur­pris­ing, then, that polit­i­cal par­ties and com­mer­cial but­ton mak­ers design but­tons to attract the votes of Amer­i­can Jews.

The first con­firmed pres­i­den­tial cam­paign to aim but­tons at Jews was in 1900 when William Jen­nings Bryan ran against William McKin­ley. The Bryan cam­paign released a but­ton in Yid­dish. Only two copies are known to exist now.

1900 Bryan-Stevenson jugate; translation (from a

1900 Bryan-Steven­son jugate; trans­la­tion (from a “Ger­man­ized” Yid­dish with spelling errors): “I’m vot­ing for Bryan also Steven­son”

Forty years passed before Jew­ish cam­paign but­tons reap­peared. In 1940, Wen­dell Willkie’s Repub­li­can sup­port­ers dis­trib­uted one with his name in Hebraized let­ters. So many were made that they still sell inex­pen­sive­ly on eBay. Sur­pris­ing­ly, no but­tons appeared that year in sup­port of Roo­sevelt.

from the Wendell Willkie campaign of 1940

from the Wen­dell Willkie cam­paign of 1940

Sup­port­ers of Repub­li­can can­di­dates appealed to Jew­ish vot­ers by pro­duc­ing but­tons with Jew­ish texts and themes, includ­ing Eisen­how­er but­tons in Yid­dish and Hebrew. Oth­ers in sup­port of Nixon appeared in 1968 and 1972.

I like Ike (Hebrew)

I like Ike (Hebrew)

I like Ike (Yiddish)

I like Ike (Yid­dish)

Nixon in Hebrew

Nixon in Hebrew

I'm voting for Nixon and Agnew (Hebrew). Comparable buttons appeared in various languages.

I’m vot­ing for Nixon and Agnew (Hebrew). Com­pa­ra­ble but­tons appeared in var­i­ous lan­guages.

Through­out the 1960s com­mer­cial, nov­el­ty, and advo­ca­cy as well as polit­i­cal cam­paign but­tons pro­lif­er­at­ed, both Jew­ish and gen­er­al. In 1968, McGovern’s admir­ers stressed his sup­port of Israel fol­low­ing the 1967 Six-Day War, though it was prob­a­bly not an offi­cial cam­paign but­ton. His detrac­tors also pro­duced a but­ton.

McGovern is Behind Israel 1,000%

McGov­ern is Behind Israel 1,000%

McGovern means McArab

McGov­ern means McArab

Although nei­ther appears to be an offi­cial but­ton, in the 1976 cam­paign there was one but­ton sup­port­ing Ger­ald Ford and one sup­port­ing Jim­my Carter. Ford’s said, “Jew­ish Amer­i­cans for Ford.” Mean­while, some­one made a series of but­tons in 15 lan­guages stat­ing: “All Good Peo­ple Need [Jim­my] Carter.” The one labeled “Jew­ish” by the man­u­fac­tur­er actu­al­ly was translit­er­at­ed Yid­dish: “Goo­ta Menchen dar­fen Carter.” In 1980, the Rea­gan cam­paign cre­at­ed a but­ton spelling his name in Hebrew.

Jewish Americans for Ford

Jew­ish Amer­i­cans for Ford

All Good People Need Carter (in

All Good Peo­ple Need Carter (in “Jew­ish”)

Reagan (in Hebrew)

Rea­gan (in Hebrew)

Odd­ly, I have nev­er seen a Jew­ish-ori­ent­ed but­ton in sup­port of either George H. W. Bush or Michael Dukakis from the 1988 elec­tion.

Begin­ning with the Clin­ton-Gore elec­tions, the num­ber and diver­si­ty of Jew­ish-themed but­tons grew tremen­dous­ly. Nei­ther the sup­port­ers of George H.W. Bush in 1992 nor Bob Dole in 1996 cir­cu­lat­ed Jew­ish-ori­ent­ed but­tons to counter Clinton/Gore in either elec­tion. The Clin­ton cam­paign worked with the Nation­al Jew­ish Demo­c­ra­t­ic Coun­cil (NJDC) to cap­ture Jew­ish votes with a series of 50 but­tons stat­ing “Jew­ish Demo­c­rat and Proud,” indi­vid­u­al­ized with the name of each state.

Jewish Democrat and Proud (Ohioans support Clinton & Gore)

Jew­ish Demo­c­rat and Proud (Ohioans sup­port Clin­ton & Gore)

When Vice Pres­i­dent Al Gore select­ed Sen­a­tor Joe Lieber­man as his run­ning mate in 2000, but­ton mak­ers rel­ished the nov­el­ty of a Jew­ish can­di­date. The cam­paign pro­duced at least one offi­cial Jew­ish-themed but­ton. In addi­tion, inde­pen­dent but­ton man­u­fac­tur­ers gen­er­at­ed an unprece­dent­ed num­ber of but­tons with Jew­ish slo­gans. These includ­ed “Bentsh with the best…” and “Chutz­pah! Gore Lieber­man 2000,” as well as “A bagel in every pot.” Even Liberman’s wife Hadassah’s name was used cre­ative­ly. The Bush-Cheney tick­et did not counter with but­tons. Yid­dish puns and word-play con­trast­ed the two can­di­dates with “Gore vs. Gore-nisht” (Gore vs. Noth­ing).

Bentsh With The Best Gore Lieberman 2000

Bentsh With The Best
Gore Lieber­man 2000

Chutzpah! Gore Lieberman 2000

Chutz­pah!
Gore Lieber­man
2000

Gore-Lieberman in 5761 A bagel in every pot!

Gore-Lieber­man in 5761
A bagel in every pot!

Hadassah It's Not Just an Organization Anymore Gore Lieberman 2000

Hadas­sah
It’s Not Just an
Orga­ni­za­tion
Any­more
Gore Lieber­man 2000

5761 גור גור-נישט

5761
גור גור-נישט

The 2004 elec­tion saw both the Bush and Ker­ry cam­paigns cre­at­ing Jew­ish but­tons. While some emerged from the offi­cial cam­paign or its sur­ro­gates, oth­ers were pro­duced out­side the cam­paigns. The Yid­dish word-play con­trast for this elec­tion was “Real Deal [Ker­ry] vs. Schlemiel [Bush].”

Republican Jewish Coalition of Northern California [for] President George W. Bush

Repub­li­can Jew­ish Coali­tion of North­ern Cal­i­for­nia [for] Pres­i­dent George W. Bush

DEMOCRATS FOR ISRAEL, LOS ANGELES 210-285-8542 www.DFI.homepage.com KERRY קרי 2004/5765

DEMOCRATS FOR ISRAEL, LOS ANGELES
210−285−8542 www.DFI.homepage.com
KERRY
קרי
20045765

The Real Deal [vs] Schlemiel www.NJDC.org

The Real Deal [vs] Schlemiel
www.NJDC.org

In 2008 Jew­ish-themed but­tons appeared dur­ing the pri­maries in sig­nif­i­cant num­bers for the first time. The Oba­ma and Clin­ton cam­paigns released Hebrew but­tons. By that time, online stores enabled any­one to print a but­ton and the vari­ety of offer­ings expand­ed from tens of but­tons to hun­dreds. Most of the but­tons – and cer­tain­ly the most cre­ative ones – sup­port­ed Oba­ma. Sarah Sil­ver­man orga­nized “the Great Schlep,” and cre­at­ed a but­ton encour­ag­ing mil­len­ni­al Jews to fly to Flori­da to con­vince their grand­par­ents to vote for Oba­ma. The 62nd Latke-Haman­tash debate at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go pit­ted “Pota­toes for Change” against “Cook­ies First,” which played on Obama’s slo­gan: “Change We Can Believe In” and McCain’s “Coun­try First.” Anoth­er but­ton tout­ed the “thun­der and light­ning” of the Rahm רעם Emanuel and Barack ברק Oba­ma team. This campaign’s Yid­dish con­trast, again from the NJDC, pit­ted the “O” [of Oba­ma] and Joe [Biden] against the “Shmoes” [McCain and Palin].
The Great Schlep

The Great Schlep

Potatoes for Change Latke'08

Pota­toes for Change Latke’08

Cookies First

Cook­ies First

RAHM [רעם] = THUNDER BARAK [ברק] = LIGHTNING

RAHM [רעם] = THUNDER
BARAK [ברק] = LIGHTNING

O” & Joe
or
The Shmoes

Obama’s 2012 re-elec­tion cam­paign was sig­nif­i­cant­ly more restrained, releas­ing only a few Jew­ish-ori­ent­ed but­tons. The Rom­ney cam­paign? None. Inde­pen­dent but­ton mak­ers also made few­er that year. Though the Her­man Cain but­ton, “Her­man Cain is Able,” was per­haps the most cre­ative (even though it presents a strange men­tal image: after killing his broth­er he becomes him?), the slo­gan proved untrue and he was unable to win the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion. That campaign’s Yid­dish but­ton from inde­pen­dent but­ton mak­er Adam Fine con­trast­ed “Barack” and “Schlock” [Rom­ney].

Jews for Romney

Jews for Rom­ney

Herman Cain Is Able 2012

Her­man
Cain
Is
Able
2012

Barack [vs] Schlock Obama 2012

Barack [vs] Schlock
Oba­ma
2012

Odd­ly enough, this year, nei­ther the Trump nor the Clin­ton cam­paigns have dis­trib­uted offi­cial Jew­ish-themed but­tons. When Trump was invit­ed to speak at the AIPAC con­ven­tion in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. in March, a group of rab­bis walked out wear­ing a but­ton: “Rab­bis Against Trump”. The Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee pro­duced one (with the [ahem!] orig­i­nal Trump/Pence logo) for the Con­ven­tion, but the Repub­li­can Jew­ish Coali­tion has been silent. The NJDC has cre­at­ed a cou­ple of but­tons in dif­fer­ing sizes, and the Jew­ish Women for Hillary Face­book group has also pro­duced a but­ton with its logo. Numer­ous inde­pen­dent but­ton mak­ers have dis­trib­uted as many as 40 dif­fer­ent Jew­ish-themed but­tons sup­port­ing Clin­ton or Trump, as well as the many also-rans. For this cam­paign Adam Fine released a but­ton con­trast­ing Hillary [Men­sch] with Trump [Meshuggen­er].

With only a few weeks until the elec­tion, when you pin on your Jew­ish-themed lapel but­ton, you will know you are par­tic­i­pat­ing in a time-hon­ored Amer­i­can-Jew­ish tra­di­tion.

Rabbis Against Trump #RabbisAgainstTrump

Rab­bis
Against
Trump
#Rab­bis­Again­st­Trump

טראמפ Not Just Our Candidate He's Mishpocha! NRC 2016

טראמפ
Not Just Our Can­di­date
He’s Mish­pocha!
NRC 2016

אני איתה [I'm with her] njdc.org

אני איתה
[I’m with her]
njdc.org

הילרי [Hillary] njdc.org

הילרי
[Hillary]
njdc.org

Joe and Hadassah Lieberman showing off their

Joe and Hadas­sah Lieber­man show­ing off their “Jew­ish Women for Hillary” but­tons.

Mensch [vs] Meshuggener Hillary 2016

Men­sch [vs] Meshuggen­er
Hillary
2016

Most of these but­tons are from my own col­lec­tion. I am not one of the two peo­ple who owns the William Jen­nings Bryan but­ton. I do not (yet) have the Hebrew “I Like Ike” but­ton. I do not know of any­one who has the Trump but­ton released at the con­ven­tion.

If you do not have time — before the elec­tion — to pur­chase but­tons you can wear on your clothes, feel free to share the images of these but­tons on your Face­book pages.

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