We reported back in February that the Obama campaign was looking for a new slogan. Early reject: “The gas is too damn high.” Apparently they looked across the Atlantic, to one of the Premiere League’s heavyweights, to nick their new motto. “Winning the Future,” the motto stolen from the cover of an old Newt Gingrich book ($6.75 on Amazon), never quite caught on. Today, Obama Inc is out with a new video that tries out its new one-word slogan: “Forward.”
The Obama campaign is very good at making videos. Governing is another story. The video re-casts Obama as the intrepid president who inherited a mess and did his best, glossing right over the fact that in doing his best, Obama has made everything worse. The video blames Republicans for all partisanship, takes credit for the abortifacient mandate, and generally loses the plot of Obama’s years in office. The Obama stimulus didn’t stimulate, the promises of transparency and healing have morphed into opaque stubbornness and sharpened division, unemployment is high, gas prices are higher, and home values are down while tax bills keep going up. So he campaigns, all the time, giving us the razzle dazzle to distract us from all his failures. He scolded America not to “spike the football” when SEAL Team 6 killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, only to snatch the football and spike it himself now that the campaign is on. The only surprise of the video is that Team Obama didn’t insert the Osama death photo into the mix somewhere. Maybe in October.
Like “Winning the Future,” “Forward” as a motto is already in prominent use. Premiere League soccer giants Arsenal unveiled “Forward” as their slogan in 2011, to commemorate the club’s 125th anniversary. “Forward” hit the streets to collective yawns and the Telegraph even described it as “another blow to Western civilization“:
As an Arsenal fan, it pains me to say it, but they too have joined the anti-history club. This season, to celebrate the club’s 125th anniversary, they have commissioned a new crest; as I noticed playing football with my 10-year-old nephew, Tommy, yesterday. Looking at his replica shirt, I saw that, horror of horrors, rather than using Arsenal’s wonderful old motto (“Victoria Concordia Crescit”) they have gone for the dull, Blairite platitude, “Forward”.
As the picture above shows, they try to justify the new motto by saying “Forward” is “one of the first recorded mottos related to armament and battle”. It’s also one of the dreariest and emptiest.
Compare it to the wonderfully rich chunk of Latin that preceded it. Because of the marvellous flexibility of Latin, it can mean, “Victory grows through Togetherness”, and it can also mean “Togetherness grows through Victory”; although it can’t quite mean, “Posh Spice goes by Concorde”.
Like most chunks of Latin, it also shows how deeply indebted the English language is to the Romans. All three words have their direct descendants in today’s English: victory, concord, crescendo.
It also throws light on the days when people consciously looked back to history for inspiration. The Latin motto was born in the last programme of the 1947/48 Championship-winning season, when the editor, Harry Homer (alias ‘Marksman’), wrote: “My mind seeks an apt quotation with which to close this season which has been such a glorious one for Tom Whittaker, Joe Mercer and all connected with The Gunners. Shall we turn for once to Latin? ‘Victoria Concordia Crescit’.
Them were the days – the motto was adopted in 1949.
Only to be scrapped in 2011. As a die hard, Gooner-for-life Arsenal fan myself, “Victoria Concordia Crescit” was something to hang onto. It conjured up images of the Invincibles and Thierry Henry sending rockets into the net off his boot, and connected those days to footballer of the year 2012, Arsenal hit-man Robin van Persie. The vague, meaningless “Forward” has been something to forget. For a president who rode in on “Hope and Change” but who presides over Fast and Furious, looking forward may be all that he can have us do anymore. Looking backward is just too painful.