Wally's campaign buttons bring back memories of Nixon, FDR and Ted Kennedy

News-DemocratJune 15, 2013 

I'm not sure what makes a collector, but I think insanity figures in.

Otherwise I never would have been at Paul Lindauers' indoor yard sale Thursday buying campaign buttons.

I'm not sure I ever owned a campaign button in my life. Except maybe when I was a kid and we tried to cadge them from campaign headquarters in my hometown.

They weren't thrilled about giving their costly buttons to a bunch of kids who couldn't even vote and most likely would lose them immediately.

But for some reason these buttons drew me in.

I think it was a combination of fascinating candidates, my memories and history.

For example, one button is a half-inch diameter and round and has the words, "Dewey Bricker" on it. I was thinking 1948 when Thomas Dewey so famously lost to Harry Truman. But when I looked it up, it turns out that Dewey also ran for president in 1944 on the Republican ticket and his running mate was Ohio Gov. John Bricker. They lost to Franklin Roosevelt who was going for his fourth term.

I never forget that one of the most devastating things ever said about a candidate was about Dewey when Alice Roosevelt, Teddy's daughter, said he looked like the groom on a wedding cake.

I have a Roosevelt button, three-quarters of an inch and round, but I really don't know from which of his four elections. Or, for that matter, I can't even be sure which Roosevelt it was.

I doubt that it was from 1920 when FDR was the Democratic vice-presidential candidate with James Cox and lost to Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge.

Another half-inch round button has pictures of Herbert Hoover and Charles Curtis but I don't know if it was from 1928 when they won or 1932 when they lost when the country blamed them for the Depression.

I don't think any of these buttons are particularly valuable but they are incredibly cool.

The Ted Kennedy button says simply, "Kennedy '80." It is blue and battered, sort of like Kennedy's image.

The Shirley Chisholm for President button is a nice blast from the past, probably 1972.

The only button I bought that isn't red, white or blue, is a green. It touts Ed Clark for president on the Libertarian Party ticket in 1980.

He got 1.6 percent of the vote, still a percentage record for that party.

Then there is the La Follette for president button which is from 1924 when he ran in the Progressive Party, garnering nearly 5 million votes or one-sixth of the national total.

Perhaps my favorite is the 1972 Richard M. Nixon two-inch square white button. When I think about it the button was an omen.

"Nixon 72" and a red, white and blue elephant are printed on it from corner to corner so you either had to wear the button crooked or the writing was crooked.

So was the candidate.

Have a column idea? Call Wally at 239-2506 or 800-642-3878; or email: wspiers@bnd.com

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