Tag Archives: Political buttons

Collecting Political Losers

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1848’s GRUMPIEST CANDIDATE: Lewis Cass, who served in the presidential cabinets of Andrew Jackson and James Buchanan, fell short in his own White House bid against Zachary Taylor. (Photo courtesy of Heritage Auctions)

I know why Democrat Lewis Cass lost to President Zachary Taylor in the 1848 election. Cass looks absolutely PISSED on his campaign buttons. Given that the above portrait is a drawing, wouldn’t you think that the political consultants would insist on drawing a smile or even a half-smirk?

Yet, according to Heritage Auctions, the Cass campaign button recently sold for $7,767, while the same style Taylor button fetched $4,182.

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THE BEST CAMPAIGN SOUVENIRS don’t always translate to victory.

Despite losing the 1964 election to LBJ by an embarrassing margin, Republican nominee Barry Goldwater is still popular with political memorabilia collectors. (I happen to own a rusting can of 1964 “Gold Water,” which is literally what you think it is.)

Cass and Goldwater are anomalies, however. Usually, the political memorabilia of a second place presidential candidate winds up in the same closet as Super Bowl runners up and gracious Academy Award nominees.

John Kerry = Al Gore = Mike Dukakis = John McCain = Mitt Romney.

In my latest feature for The Hill’s quirky Capital Living section, I explore the fate of “Political Losers” and how they fare in the minds of history buffs and packrats.  Double click the newspaper image below or click here for an easy-on-the-eyes enlargement:
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Filed under Election 2012, politics, The Hill

Kerry Rules, Yankees Suck?

Did John Kerry lose the 2004 presidential election over improper messaging?

From the right-hand corner of the political button display in my office: The Fred Flintstone presidential campaign shares equal time with Jimmy Carter, George Bush, Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon (notice the name of his running mate?).

But my most curious political souvenir comes from the streets outside Boston’s Fleet Center at the 2004 Democratic National Convention: Kerry Rules, Yankees Suck.

Strangely, there is no punctuation. There should be one if not two exclamation points.

Given that Red Sox fans have been known to inexplicably chant “Yankees Suck!” at Celtics, Bruins and Patriots games, as well as at concerts, it’s not so surprising it would surface on the national political stage — regardless if the voters in the 44 non-New England states ever got the joke.

Now that the Red Sox unfortunately do suck, it will be fascinating to see what happens to the “Yankees Suck!” cheer.

Here’s betting that the bitterness and resentment outside Fenway Park gets much much worse.  Ironically, scapegoating the Bronx Bombers just made a cameo in the Scott Brown / Elizabeth Warren U.S. Senate race.

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Filed under Asinine Baseball Analogies, Red Sox, Sports Psychology, Yankee Stadium

Political Button of the Day: Obama Prays for Victory

Gearing up for Election Day, I will occasionally share a favorite button from my modest-but-quirky political memorabilia collection.

Imagine a fortune cookie made with 2,000 pound slabs of Jerusalem stone and crumbling on one of the holiest sites in both Judaism and Islam. It’s a tradition to cram a note to God in the Western Wall (also referred to as the Wailing Wall) to the point that the crevices look like they are jammed with centuries of spitballs.

This button surfaced on a souvenir table at the Democratic National Convention, perhaps an effort to sway Jewish Americans on the fence to go for Obama.

The backstory is quite bizarre. A young rabbinical student swiped Obama’s prayer note after he stuffed it in the wall, causing a national uproar when it was published by a major Israeli newspaper.

Here’s what Obama’s scribbled note said:

“Lord — Protect my family and me,” reads the note, first published in the Israeli newspaper Maariv daily. “Forgive me my sins, and help me guard against pride and despair. Give me the wisdom to do what is right and just. And make me an instrument of your will.”

Pretty standard stuff, although where’s the traditional Miss America contestant call for world peace?

If you like offbeat political and pop culture memorabilia like this, then please check out my new Slate magazine slideshow devoted to the fake presidential bids of Archie Bunker, Fred Flintstone, Snoopy, Charile Brown, Lucy Van Pelt, Linus Van Pelt, Barbie, Ken Griffey, Jr., Mr. Clean, Captain Morgan the Rum Pirate, Fonzie, Yogi Bear, Boo Boo, Huckleberry Hound, Magilla Gorilla, and MAD magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman!

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Filed under Election 2008, politics

Political Button of the Day: Mets farmhand Wilbur Huckle and the Metropolitan Party

Gearing up for Election Day, I will occasionally share a favorite button from my modest-but-quirky political memorabilia collection.


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Sometimes no matter how crappy he is in the clutch, a baseball player can be beloved for his name only. You know, the perfect baseball name. Like Duffy Dyer, Tug McGraw or Coco Crisp, whose name was so cool that fans thought he would be another Johnny Damon by coolness alone. I’m embarrassed to say I bought Crisp’s rap album.

The novelty wears off of course, when the realization kicks in that a guy with a boring name that hits .285 is far preferable to the “colorful, zany character in the clubhouse” who hits .230. Yes, I mean you, Kevin Millar. (For the record, I did not buy any of his albums).

But back to politics. Wilbur Huckle was a minor league fan favorite in the Mets farm system who didn’t even get one of those Moonlight Graham pity at-bats in the major leagues. In 1964, flush with excitement over their new digs at Shea Stadium, New York fans jokingly formed the “Metropolitan Party” and nominated Huckle as their presidential candidate.

Occasionally at Fenway, you’ll see a handmade “David Ortiz for President” sign vying for four seconds of TV coverage. But these buttons were everywhere at Shea.

Huckle, who was the minor league roommate of future Mets Hall of Famer Tom “Terrific” Seaver, did not wind up with any electoral votes against Lyndon B. Johnson and Barry Goldwater — but how many light-hitting Mets minor leaguers from the 1960s do we still talk about today?

Huckle’s brief cult hero status was captured in the book, “Williamsport’s Baseball Heritage,” by James P. Quigel and Louis E. Hunsinger:

“Shortshop Wilbur Huckle had the surest hands of any Mets infielder and delighted Bowman Field fans with his hustle and work ethic. Though small in stature, the affable redhead was a scrapper and one of the most popular players during the Mets years in Williamsport. He often conducted impromptu fielding clinics for neighborhood kids outside his Cherry Street apartment before arriving at the ballpark for official duty.”

“Affable redhead?” Sounds like a description of Lucille Ball.

The fact that Mets fans zealously adopted Huckle reminds me of Charlie Brown’s undying devotion to his favorite baseball player, Joe Shlabotnik, who batted .004 in one season due to a lucky bloop single. He also once threw out a runner who had fallen down between first and second base.

After retiring, Shlabotnik went on to manage one game with the Waffletown Syrups and was fired for ordering a suicide squeeze play with no one on base, according to the historians at Peanuts Wiki.

Huckle went on to manage the Batavia Trojans for three seasons (1972-1974), skippering his clubs to two sixth place finishes and one fifth place finish.

If you’re reading this, Mr. Huckle, please get in touch and let Mets Nation know which candidate you are supporting in 2008!

If you like offbeat political and pop culture memorabilia like this, then please check out my new Slate magazine slideshow devoted to the fake presidential bids of Archie Bunker, Fred Flintstone, Snoopy, Charile Brown, Lucy Van Pelt, Linus Van Pelt, Barbie, Ken Griffey, Jr., Mr. Clean, Captain Morgan the Rum Pirate, Fonzie, Yogi Bear, Boo Boo, Huckleberry Hound, Magilla Gorilla, and MAD magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman!

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Filed under Election 2008, politics

Political Button of the Day: The Estonian role in Nixon’s rise to power

Gearing up for Election Day, I will occasionally share a favorite button from my modest-but-quirky political memorabilia collection.

In all the historical nonfiction I have ever read, I have yet to see one writer explore the Estonian-American community’s role in President Nixon’s rise to power.

Did Nixon have any special affinity for Estonian voters? Not really. He covered his bets and issued campaign buttons for at least two dozen nationalities.

A random check on eBay surfaced “Hungarians for President Nixon,” “French for President Nixon,” “Scots for President Nixon,” “Ukranians for President Nixon,” and “Slovacks for President Nixon.”

Wonder what kind of slurs Nixon used behind these people’s backs?

If you like offbeat political and pop culture memorabilia like this, then please check out my new Slate magazine slideshow devoted to the fake presidential bids of Archie Bunker, Fred Flintstone, Snoopy, Charile Brown, Lucy Van Pelt, Linus Van Pelt, Barbie, Ken Griffey, Jr., Mr. Clean, Captain Morgan the Rum Pirate, Fonzie, Yogi Bear, Boo Boo, Huckleberry Hound, Magilla Gorilla, and MAD magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman!

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Filed under Election 2008, politics

Political Button of the Day: How “Reagan Hood” Spreads the Wealth

Gearing up for Election Day, I will occasionally share a favorite button from my modest-but-quirky political memorabilia collection.

As the proud recipient of the Ronald Reagan Academic Fitness Award, this political button pulled at my heartstrings when I spied it at a Democratic National Convention souvenir booth. But sentimentality wasn’t enough for me to shell out 45 bucks for it.

The real Robin Hood stole from the rich to give to the poor, a la the imagined legacy of Barack Obama, while Reagan was demonized for allegedly doing the reverse. Or, are Obama and Reagan actually kindred spirits as this political analyst suggests?

The big question is: Could the Gipper pull off looking suave in that unflattering hat? Would Mikhail Gorbachev have taken him seriously?

It’s worth noting that Kevin Costner goes hatless on the DVD cover of “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.”

If you like offbeat political and pop culture memorabilia like this, then please check out my new Slate magazine slideshow devoted to the fake presidential bids of Archie Bunker, Fred Flintstone, Snoopy, Charile Brown, Lucy Van Pelt, Linus Van Pelt, Barbie, Ken Griffey, Jr., Mr. Clean, Captain Morgan the Rum Pirate, Fonzie, Yogi Bear, Boo Boo, Huckleberry Hound, Magilla Gorilla, and MAD magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman!

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Filed under Election 2008, politics

Political Button of the Day: Dick Gregory Plays the Retro Race Card

Gearing up for Election Day, I will occasionally share a favorite button from my modest-but-quirky political memorabilia collection.

1960s comedy and activist icon Dick Gregory, also well known for his “Natural Diet for Folks Who Eat,” has been back in the public eye recently as a political commentator on the Don Imus radio show.

Gregory has never been anything but blunt when addressing race relations, going as far as to title his infamous autobiography, “N****r,” and he wasn’t bashful 40 years ago. Vote for me, I’m the black guy, his buttons said.

Can you imagine Barack Obama taking that approach?

On a side note, Gregory recently chimed in on the Bill Ayers-Obama controversy with some refreshing moral clarity. If Bill Ayers is an unrepentant terrorist, he asked Imus, then where have all Obama’s critics been when it came to challenging Ayer’s cushy position and title at the University of Illinois at Chicago?

Our tax dollars have been subsidizing a university that embraces a retired domestic terrorist and gives him academic legitimacy. Where was the outrage before Obama entered the presidential race, and why is there hardly any outrage directed at the university now (compared to the focus on whether Obama is just Facebook friends with Ayers or really is his BFF)?

I know the answer to that last question. It’s because the powers that be in academia are absolutely delusional and have a double standard about tolerating right wing vs left wing extremist ideology. Check out the new documentary, “Indocrinate U.”

Oh, off the soap box and back to the button. It’s a gem, isn’t it?

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In case you are wondering why I would mock FOX News for deleting letters in Jesse Jackson’s profanity, but won’t just write out the name of Dick Gregory’s autobiography, it is because I don’t want to turn up in the search engines for that word along with every racist kook on the Internet.

If you like offbeat political and pop culture memorabilia like this, then please check out my new Slate magazine slideshow devoted to the fake presidential bids of Archie Bunker, Fred Flintstone, Snoopy, Charile Brown, Lucy Van Pelt, Linus Van Pelt, Barbie, Ken Griffey, Jr., Mr. Clean, Captain Morgan the Rum Pirate, Fonzie, Yogi Bear, Boo Boo, Huckleberry Hound, Magilla Gorilla, and MAD magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman!

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Filed under Election 2008, politics