Library of Congress

Teachers

The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Presentations and Activities > Elections

Requirements   Regard   Convincing Voters   Gallery

Convincing Voters

The road to the White House is long, expensive, and exhausting. Becoming a candidate marks embarking on this road, but is far from its end. Successful candidates must continue to convince the voters that they deserve their individual votes and garner the critical votes of electors in the Electoral College.

Convincing the voters is the essence of a political campaign. Over time the media has changed, and today's campaign strategies reflect the use of statistical analysis and the science of influence and affect. However, many of the methods for influencing voters remain essentially the same. Advertising, theme songs, stump speeches, and even negative campaigning have been around since our country began. Picture yourself studying the campaign posters of Millard Fillmore in 1850 and James Buchanan in 1857. Would the figures of Justice and Liberty wearing gowns and tiaras surrounding Millard Fillmore sway a modern voter? Probably not, certainly no more than the laurel branches surrounding James Buchanan. But notice the American flags in both of these posters. We certainly see that imagery in advertisements for candidates running in current presidential elections.

Listen to an audio clip of candidate Calvin Coolidge on the subject of Law Order. It's hard to imagine this monotone voice, this "man of few words" appealing to modern voters. Coolidge faced a public appeal challenge even in his own day. Dorothy Parker once said Coolidge looked as if he'd been "weaned on a pickle." Today, a candidate's every word, every action and even their perceived thought is paraded before the public. Showing the voter that they are both a leader and a "good person" is part of the challenge of the campaign.

Yet voters elected Coolidge when he ran. Coolidge's emphasis on traditional values, frugality and economy in government would be familiar topics in any presidential debate today. If a candidate's message speaks to the people, if they choose their "issues" wisely, the office of president may be theirs. This was true in Coolidge's time...is it still true today?

previous page