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A Metaphor for Obama

NEW HAVEN – As US President Barack Obama begins his second term, he needs a simple way to express his vision and policies for the economy – a metaphor around which support for his policies might crystallize, thereby boosting his administration’s political effectiveness. So, what makes a successful metaphor work?

The 2008 Obama campaign used the slogan “Change we can believe in.” But “change” is not a metaphor for a new government: it does not stand for any policies. Nor does “Hope” or “Yes we can!”

The 2012 Obama campaign used the one-word slogan “Forward!” Once again, it signifies nothing about policies or their underlying philosophy. Every politician, whether liberal or conservative, wants to move forward, not backward.

Obama’s slogans are examples of “dead metaphors”: they are not part of an overall conceptual scheme.