July 4, 2012
Back in 2010, this is how the “Moving Forward” election slogan was reported:
Don Watson, speech writer for former prime minister Paul Keating, says Ms Gillard used the phrase ‘moving forward’ 24 times in five minutes when announcing the election on Saturday.
He says Ms Gillard sounds like she is “training a dog” and is treating voters like “imbeciles”.
In the last week Julia Gillard has given three speeches and they were entitled “Moving Australia Forward” “Going Forward Together” and yesterday’s address in Adelaide “Moving Forward Together”.
I hope the geniuses at camp Gillard who came up with this concept are at least having fun with it. Perhaps the ALP should invest in its own octopus which would choose from three boxes labelled “Moving” “Forward” “Together”, the new combination being the order Richo the octopus decides on. My personal choice for the next speech is “Together – Forward Moving.”
I’m not alone in remarking on this trend, but it’s beginning to look like an election slogan, and the prospect of hearing versions of this phrase thousands of times in the coming weeks is beginning to make me pine for the days of Working Families.
…How has this insidious, meaningless corporate babble – the kind of phrase that should set off a large red siren in any meeting room indicating that a person has no idea what they’re talking about – managed to sleep its way into a spot on the Prime Minister’s entourage?
Two years later, the most powerful man in the world is using the same “meaningless corporate babble” and dog-training slogans to promote his headland domestic policy achievement.
The key difference, in case it isn’t clear, is context.
“Moving Forward” as used by Julia Gillard and the Labor campaign was mostly devoid of context. Certainly, Gillard attempted to give context after the term was subjected to ridicule:
“I’ve been using those words because they mean something to me and I think they mean something to the nation,” she said.
“I’ve used the term ‘moving forward’ because I believe it captures a spirit about Australia. We are a confident, optimistic, forward-looking people.
“I want to be talking to the Australian people in this campaign about how our nation can seize the opportunities of the future.”
Unfortunately, as noted at the time, the slogan was mostly empty and disconnected. It was a lost opportunity, because connected to various policy categories, it did have a positive, optimistic tenor. Moving forward on education, moving forward on health, etc.
The slogan was also connected to the deposing of Rudd, and the media obviously played up the idea that Gillard wanted to move on (or wanted the Australian people to move on) from the Rudd-era.
Obama on the other hand has connected the slogan from the outset to the defence of his key policy achievement.
This context links the optimistic, forward-looking slogan to a concrete issue — an issue where a lot is at stake. Aligned groups have also bolstered the campaign. The Moving Forward slogan has been used with Obamacare, but it is also the “official catchword” of his campaign.
“The highest court in the land has now spoken,” Obama said. “What we won’t do, what the country can’t afford to do, is re-fight the political battles of two years ago or go back to the way things were.”
The country must now keep moving “forward,” he said.
And let’s not pretend that the US media is any less nasty, spiteful and conservative than the Australian media. News Ltd and News Corp is the constant. Obama’s successful use of the slogan is not due to a friendlier media.
Why has Obama used Moving Forward so successfully? Because he provides context each time.