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 CNS Story:

CAMPAIGN-BUTTONS Oct-18-2004 (530 words) With photos. xxxn

Say it with buttons: campaigning with a political pin

By Patricia Zapor
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Sweethearts may say it with roses and chocolates, but political partisans say it with buttons and bumper stickers.

Judging by the assortment of material available to buy this year, partisans whose interests spring from religious concerns are happy to put their beliefs into campaign slogans.

"Catholics for Kerry" and "Vote Catholic, Not Kerry," and their counterparts, "Catholics for Bush" and "People of Faith for Kerry," are just a few of the sentiments making the rounds courtesy of campaign buttons this year in the presidential race between President George W. Bush, the Republican nominee, and Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, his Democratic opponent.

There are also buttons for Christians in general and for Muslims and Jews. The Kerry version of the latter one features text in Hebrew.

It wasn't always this way.

When John F. Kennedy ran for president in 1960, one of the important underlying issues of his campaign was whether his Catholicism would be an obstacle for the Protestant majority of voters.

For much of the Catholic population of the country, Kennedy's nomination and election were a sign that Catholics had arrived, politically speaking. But Kennedy's name on the ballot also spurred a vicious anti-Catholic campaign which warned that the pope would be running the United States if the senator from Massachusetts were elected.

Yet while those sentiments were a strong undercurrent of the 1960 campaign, there's not much evidence of it in campaign memorabilia.

The John F. Kennedy Library in Massachusetts recently updated and expanded its exhibit on the 1960 campaign. Library spokesman Tom McNaught said there was no sign of the kind of religion-themed campaigning that can be seen in this year's election.

No buttons. No bumper stickers. No posters.

"I don't think the campaign itself would have put anything out like that," he told Catholic News Service. "Maybe others had them, but nobody's donated them to our collection."

Kennedy Library researchers and archivists explained that the Kennedy campaign was so focused on downplaying fears about the candidate being Catholic that it would have been the last source for buttons or bumper stickers touting his Catholicism.

McNaught said the only sections of the exhibit on the 1960 campaign that focus on religion include some of the anti-Catholic literature, and material about Kennedy's speech before the Houston Ministerial Association in which he explained how he would separate his faith from his political actions in office.

The 2004 election is another story altogether when it comes to wearing religious-political sentiments.

For one thing, these days anybody can go into the button-making business for a few hundred bucks to buy a machine and raw materials. Consequently, the Internet is crawling with vendors willing to make and sell political buttons saying pretty much whatever somebody wants them to say.

But the Bush and Kerry campaigns also sell buttons or stickers aimed at very narrow segments of the electorate, besides those targeted at Catholics.

Official campaign sites offer: "Young Professionals for Bush," "W '04 Farm-Ranch Team," "Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders for Kerry/Edwards," "Sportsmen for Kerry/Edwards," and, giving everyone equal time, "Republicans for Kerry" and "Democrats for Bush."


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