Partisan Battles Over...Slogans?

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Just when I think politics can't get any more ridiculous, something happens that proves me wrong.

Last week, House Majority Leader Dick Armey and another top GOP congressman, J.C. Watts, accused Democrats of what you might call political copyright infringement. Here's their beef. Three years ago, the Republicans developed a sure-fire slogan for winning elections: "Securing America's Future." They'd paid some political consultant zillions of dollars to come up with those three words. They conducted who knows how many polls and focus groups with voters to test the slogan and see if voters liked it and if it would make them break down the doors to voting stations to pull the lever for Republicans. Satisfied, they plastered it everywhere: flyers, billboards, newspapers and TV ads.

So what did those damned Democrats do? Ripped off their slogan. The Democrats just unveiled their new slogan for the upcoming campaign season, which they'd spent a zillion dollars test marketing: "Securing America's Future for all our Families." The nerve of them. When they found out about the slogan theft, Armey and Watts held a press conference last week to cry foul. "Republicans have been working to secure America's future" since they took control of the House in 1994, Watts griped. The Democrats can't just up and steal our best lines. The Dems, of course, are chortling. Change your slogan, they're telling the Republicans. Make it "Securing America's Future the Republican Way" or "Securing Unlimited Oil Drilling Rights in Wildlife Refuges" or how about "Securing Crowded Classrooms and Crumbling Schools." Very funny.

My question is this: do these guys have a life? Democrats and Republicans fight about everything under the sun. Social Security, Medicare, the budget, the budget surplus, the budget deficit, prescription drugs, patients' rights, minimum wage, you name it, they're arguing about it now. Do these politicians lie awake at night and wonder to themselves, "Hmm? I wonder which piece of Democrat/GOP legislation can I oppose tomorrow morning?"

Now let me turn serious for a moment — and believe me, that's hard to do when you're talking about this latest squabble. The reason the Republicans are so hung up on their slogan is because their surveys tell them that voters think Republicans handle the economy and national security better than the Democrats. So "Securing America's Future" fits nicely with their poll results. The Democrats, on the other hand, are happy that their polling shows voters count on them to protect Social Security, health care and the environment. So "Securing America's Future for all our Families" sounds just fine to them.

Both parties, of course, are notorious for plagiarizing each other. Bill Clinton drove Republicans nuts when he'd borrow many of their conservative themes, like welfare reform. And Democrats fume when George Bush poaches from their issues, like education. But what's wrong with it? Why shouldn't a Republican borrow a Democrat's idea? Didn't they teach us in grade school civics class that compromise is key to productive government? Why can't the two parties use the same slogan? Heaven help us, it might even get them to agree of a few things.

Well, I guess that's a ridiculous idea.