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How Do Members of Congress Use the American Flag in Their Reelection Campaigns?

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Republican U.S. Representatives are 36 percent more likely to incorporate the American flag on campaign websites than Democrats; Congressmen are 64 percent more likely to do so than Congresswomen

The United States flag is one of the most powerful symbols in American life, and it is frequently utilized by public figures to brand their product - connoting positive images of patriotism, freedom, and respect and appreciation for the country's armed forces.

After 9/11, for example, many male television media anchors and reporters - in not only news but also sports reporting - began wearing a flag pin on the lapel of their suit jackets as a sign of national unity, as a remembrance for those who died in the attacks, and to show symbolic support for the U.S. military.

Politicians, to be sure, are also keenly aware of the power of the flag's symbolism, and many adorn their public image with the flag to also brand their product - themselves.

The flag, however, is utilized by different degrees in the political campaigns of federal officeholders, particularly along partisan and gender lines.

A Smart Politics analysis of nearly 400 members of the U.S. House finds that Republican Representatives are 36 percent more likely to incorporate the United States flag prominently on their campaign websites than Democratic members.

There is an even greater difference along gender lines, with male Representatives 64 percent more likely to use the flag's imagery than female Representatives.

Smart Politics examined each campaign website for U.S. House members and coded whether or not a photograph of the U.S. flag, or a representation of the flag, was included as part of the main "banner" or header image that appears on every page of the website.

In total, 368 campaign websites were examined: all 435 seats less those 5 seats currently vacant, the 34 members not running for re-election, and the 28 incumbents currently running without campaign websites.

Nearly 1 in 2 Republicans incorporate Old Glory in the main image on their website, with 47.1 percent of GOPers (73) prominently displaying the flag in the banner image and 82 Republicans not including it.

By contrast, only 74 of 213 Democratic Representatives use the symbol of the flag in their campaign banner image (34.7 percent) with 139 Democrats eschewing such imagery.

Overall, 39.9 percent of all Representatives running for reelection utilize the flag in their campaign website banners.

Use of American Flag in Banner Image of U.S. Representatives' Campaign Websites by Party

Party
Yes
No
Total
% Flag
Republican
73
82
155
47.1
Democrat
74
139
213
34.7
Total
147
221
368
39.9
Data compiled by Smart Politics.

For those members of Congress who do implement the symbolism of the American flag, there is great variation as to how it is incorporated in their campaign header image.

Some Representatives feature the flag quite unmistakably, such as conservative all-star Michele Bachmann (MN-06, pictured below), whose photo is draped by a large American flag, a technique also employed by Texas Representatives Joe Barton (TX-06) and Kevin Brady (TX-08).

Others more explicitly emphasize the flag's association with the United States military, such as Republican Congresswoman JoAnn Emerson (MO-08), whose permanent banner image includes a folded flag held by herself and a veteran:

Most Republicans, however take a more subtle approach - incorporating the imagery of the flag, or portions of the flag, as a decorative background image, sometimes even quite blurred, such as GOPers Connie Mack (FL-14), Judy Biggert (IL-13), John Sullivan (OK-01), and Randy Forbes (VA-04).

Interestingly, several of the nation's most conservative Republicans and members of the GOP leadership do not use the American flag as a centerpiece image on their reelection websites.

Republican Representatives such as Minority Leader John Boehner (OH-08), Minority Whip Eric Cantor (VA-07), Republican Conference Committee Chairman Mike Pence (IN-06), Republican Conference Committee Vice-Chairwoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (WA-05), and Republican Policy Committee Chairman Thaddeus McCotter (MI-11) all decided not to use the U.S. flag in their banner images.

On the Democratic side, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (CA-08) also forgoes the use of the American flag and opts instead to have her name flanked by an image of the U.S. Capitol. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (MD-05) uses a detail of the State of Maryland flag while Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (SC-06) does not use any governmental symbol at all.

Two of the most well-known members of the House - one a conservative, the other a liberal - both clearly invoke the image of the flag as they run for reelection for their Congressional seat: Ron Paul (TX-14) and Dennis Kucinich (OH-10).

There are also clear differences as to whether or not flags are implemented in campaign websites along gender lines, with Congressmen 64 percent more likely to utilize the flag than Congresswomen.

Male Representatives adorn their name or image with the American flag at a 42.9 percent rate (130 of 303), compared to just 26.2 percent for female Representatives (17 of 65).

All in all, however, party trumps gender.

Old Glory was incorporated into the banner images for the campaign websites of:

· 47.9 percent of male Republicans
· 40.0 percent of female Republicans
· 38.7 percent of male Democrats
· 22.0 percent of female Democrats

Use of American Flag in Banner Image of U.S. Representatives' Campaign Websites by Party and Gender

Representative
Yes
No
Total
% Flag
Male GOP
67
73
140
47.9
Female GOP
6
9
15
40.0
Male DEM
63
100
163
38.7
Female DEM
11
39
50
22.0
Total
147
221
368
39.9
Data compiled by Smart Politics.

Like Majority Leader Hoyer, some members of Congress opted instead to feature their state flag instead of that of their country on their website banner, such as Democrats Glenn Nye (VA-02) and Martin Heinrich (AL-06).

Interestingly, the state known for taking the most pride in itself, Texas, has the largest percentage of U.S. Representatives displaying the American flag on their campaign websites for states with multi-member delegations.

At 70 percent, 21 of 30 Texas incumbents with campaign websites embed the U.S. flag in their banner image.

Close behind were Nebraska (2 of 3 Representatives, 67 percent) and Georgia (7 of 11 with campaign websites, 64 percent).

Some members of Congress are particularly creative as they utilize the U.S. flag to brand their campaign image.

For example, Republican Peter King (NY-03) manages to pull off the symbolic trifecta on his site - incorporating not only the flag, but also the Capitol, and the Statue of Liberty in his banner image:

Meanwhile, Democrats Shelley Berkley (NV-01) and Mark Schauer (MI-07) embed the image of the stars and stripes inside the shapes of their home states of Nevada and Michigan respectively.

But the top award in creativity for incorporating the American flag on a campaign website belongs to New Jersey Republican Frank LoBiondo (NJ-02).

The banner family photo of the eight-term Representative finds an American flag kerchief worn on the necks of his two dogs:

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6 Comments


  • What's really interesting is that Republicans are the first to desecrate a flag in order to look patriotic. I've never seen so many flag-draped as I did at the Bachmann-Palin nutfest. I guess it's ok--even patriotic--to cut a flag up and sew it into a shirt or pair of pants, or fly it 24/7 in inclement weather without taking it in as is proper treatment of a flag, but not ok to burn it in protest.

  • Gives new meaning to wrapping yourself in the flag.
    Of course the flag pin on the lapel is a variation of the same theme. All the while pretending to do something for your country when you are really doing it for your own advantage.

  • Old Glory has always stood for Freedom and Liberty. It mean that we have to agree on anything/everything. Just that we are free to believe whatever we want. It doesn't stand for "equality" as it is defined by the Left, and it surely doesn't stand for "social justice". Indivudials are free to succeed or fail. History proves that less government means more freedom.

  • It has always bothered me...the profusion of flags that only seem to come out during political contests. Are they suggesting that the opponent isn't as patriotic...or fearful that somebody might question their own loyalty to America if they don't?
    I would much prefer to see a record of voting consistent with our core values...support of the American people over special interest and corporations.
    It might be more appropriate for some of the long-termers to put the corporate flag of Exxon or Goldman_Sachs on their campaign literature...closer to the truth.

  • We should all take a step back and look at a flag, put our hand on our heart and say the Pledge of Allegence. We have family members in almost every home that has died to defend that flag and our way of live. Your freedoms stop when they infrenge on my rights. That is what makes this country great. However with that being sad The United States Of America is not the stronge great place it was just in the time sence I was a child. If we all do not stop acting like we are owed something and get off our lazy behinds and kick those good for nothing old farts out of Washington and get some folks in there that are not going to play the "Party" game, well we might as well kiss the way of life we have enjoyed goodbye. Those folks in Washington do not care about the flag or the ground it stands on, they only want money and to make a name for themselfs. I have one I will give them all but I cannot say it on here.

  • I'm a retired Marine. I have served my country under three different Presidents; Bush, Clinton, and Obama. Each President, I supported a war effort in one way or another. The support of Congress is not seen everywhere, but in the military we see it. The young troops may not but the upper brass see it and those in contracting. If you work for the state or are involved in politics you see it even more. Like anything else the eighty/twenty rule is in play; 80% of Congress practice in corruption while 20% work for the country. The same goes for the local church, school teachers, local government, mailmen, neighborhood watch groups, your own households. Get involved at your level of govt and help and change that area, encourage those with the time, money and resources to get involved at their level of govt to change that area.
    The men and women fighting for this country would appreciate a letter sent overseas while their deployed from their family's and children, send them a letter. The American flag is an inanimate object, all those who support the flag are conscious and endowed with life, so the lapel pins should be the silhouette of a human. Make that a movement, if you want to change the focus of politics. In addition read Lincoln's, "The Hyphenated American".

  • Leave a comment


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