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Constructing the Past

Publication Date

Spring 2007

Abstract

The Progressive Era’s emphasis on political personalities stands in contrast to most other eras in American history, including our own, and the resultant political discourse encouraged a rich and charismatic political atmosphere. The presidential campaign songs from this era are a testament to this atmosphere. Since these songs were written during the campaigns, for the specific purpose of swaying voters, they can be seen as cultural constructs and as political propaganda. They provide insight into the political atmosphere of the era: into the language that was used to discuss the issues and the rhetoric that was effective at mobilizing public opinion for an era of change. Colored by a number of predictable appeals, including those to racism, nativism, history, jingoism, and militarism, as well as some rare discussion of the issues, this language that incited popular involvement and political reform was centered on the personalities, often caricatured, of the candidates.

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