From the Desk of Hal Elliott Wert: Campaign Posters of 2016

The following contribution is by Hal Elliott Wert, author of George McGovern and the Democratic Insurgents (Nebraska, 2015). Wert is a professor emeritus of history at the Kansas University Art Institute. 

Many of you purchased George McGovern and the Democratic Insurgents (GMDI) and followed the trail of posters up through the election of 2012, may have pondered, “Yeah, okay, but what happened to the great American poster in 2016?” If you bought into my thesis that the best posters had appeared for candidates on the left, than you likely concluded that the Bernie Sanders posters were the more exciting. And, geez, you’d be right. Hillary’s disinterest in the poster continued in 2016 as did Donald Trump’s campaign. As might be expected both the Clinton and Trump campaign produced a few top-notch posters. But hang on; here comes a Bernie deluge faithfully following in the poster tradition pioneered by Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern. Déjà vu—the graphics of the sixties are reborn. Let’s feel the Bern!

James Montgomery Flagg’s famous World War One poster, for better or worse, has appeared in hundreds of versions and clearly will not fade into history. Here, a distressed Uncle Bernie pleads for you to join him to stem the crisis.

In this second poster from the Big Easy, a jovial Uncle Bernie asks for your support while you suck on crawfishes and groove to the sounds. It’s hard not to like this hand drawn watercolored poster that must have made Bernie Boomers feel right at home. These eats, music fests, and support hearken back to the great Labor Day picnics of the last century.

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Toking up on the sacred skunk, Cheech and Chong flatten trump as Bernie races to the White House. This rare 18” x 24” poster in an edition of 120 is signed by the artist and the comedy duo themselves. Thanks to Democrat Party heavies, Bernie went up in smoke.

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Concert fundraisers proliferated for Bernie, everything from local garage bands to the stars. You’ll enjoy the barrage that follows:

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Shepard Fairey weighed in early for Bernie as he had for Obama with a limited edition screen print that quickly sold out. Tickets for the LA concert went for $500 to $2,000, ouch, I feel the burn. The poster was also printed with a black background in several sizes and Tee-shirts were available as well. Fairey, when asked if Obama met expectations, responded, “Not even close.”

The Coachella block party poster is all but impossible to obtain. If you missed the online offering, you missed it. Second sellers are rare. But its okay, Bernie missed it too as he was campaigning in Pennsylvania. Regardless, Berniechella in the hot California desert was a success.

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Portland gig poster artist, the king of rock posters, Emek created this limited edition “Bernie-Wan Kenobi” poster with some hot intergalactic inks. Like the Fairey poster, this one went out the door fast.

While not a poster, closing out this section on Bernie posters demands a look at “Buff Bernie.” Color me Bernie is lots of fun even if you’re not a Berniac or a Bernienista.

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The Clinton campaign in 2016 and in Hillary’s past campaigns were never big on posters but this one from a fundraiser in Memphis is very, very good. Why it was not available as a download, plastered on walls, or sitting in store front windows across the country is a mystery.

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A winning photograph, bold use of color and a simple message make this a striking poster.

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This Peter Max-like poster, “we all live in a yellow submarine,” with drop shade lettering tries hard to appear three dimensional.

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Unintentionally, “Unfinished Business” ironically captures Hillary’s unexpected loss in the 2016 campaign.

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This James Taylor benefit poster for Hillary was designed by California gig poster queen Alexandra Fischer and sports a hot ‘60s look.

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Tony Puryear and Bryan Adams’ 2008 Hillary poster showed up in 2016 in many guises.

Amazingly, these Trump campaign posters were created early in the campaign for the candidate’s rallies in southern states but did not show up nationally until much later. Artist Craig Brumfield of Ocean Springs, Mississippi, created the following hard hitting, humorous cartoon posters. Posters on the right have largely been very staid so I was excited by Craig’s “take no prisoners” creations that are in the Thomas Nast tradition. I love the way his caricature of Trump uses the signs and symbols of Gulf Coast culture in these signed limited editions to graphically hammer home the Trump message.

 

Well, that’s all for now folks but I’ll be back with more 2016 posters in my next blog—you’ll be buried in an avalanche of Bernie posters. In the meantime 2020 is nearly upon us, so look to see what’s hanging around you in plain sight. With twenty-plus Democrat candidates it will be a visual blitz.

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