The theme is about giving voters a choice of directions.
When the Obama campaign unveiled a seven-minute video yesterday, making the case for the president's re-election, it also unveiled a new theme: "Forward." For those of us at MSNBC, the choice of words seemed pretty familiar.
But we were hardly the only ones. Zeke Miller highlighted all kinds of groups, outlets, and organizations that have also put "forward" to good use. It's also a common position in many team sports. It's even Wisconsin's official state motto.
But as Todd Gregory noted, some on the right have found a hidden socialist plot. No, seriously.
National Review's The Corner: "I knew that sounded awfully familiar. From Wikipedia: Vorwarts ("Forward") was the central organ of the Social Democratic Party of Germany published daily in Berlin from 1891 to 1933."
Daily Mail: "Mao, Lenin and a century of Marxist radicals: The controversial origins of Obama's new campaign slogan 'Forward'"
The Washington Times: "New Obama slogan has long ties to Marxism, socialism"
For the record, as best as I can tell, none of these pieces were published as satire, or presented as arguments to make conservatives appear foolish.
When voters see "forward," the Obama campaign wants them to think about progress, advancement, and aspirations. When the right sees "forward," they think about secret communist propaganda.
And people wonder why our public discourse is so stunted.
But the significance of Obama's new theme, at least for me, is the way in which it sets up a contrast with the president's Republican rival. After all, what's the opposite of "forward"?
Team Obama is eager to push the message that Mitt Romney would take the country backward, effectively representing a third Bush term.
Ezra Klein today touches on a point we've been discussing for weeks: it's easy to make this case against Romney, because the former governor has surrounded himself with members of Bush's team.
Last week, when CNN asked House Speaker John Boehner whom Mitt Romney, the likely GOP presidential nominee, should choose as his vice presidential running mate, he named Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Daniels and Portman served as budget directors in the Bush White House. Perhaps more surprising, a variety of big-name Republicans have openly yearned for Jeb Bush to get the nod -- and before that, to run for the nomination itself.
Meanwhile, Romney's campaign staff is thick with Bush administration veterans. Two of his economic advisers -- N. Greg Mankiw and Glenn Hubbard -- served as chief economists for Bush. His policy director, Lanhee Chen, worked on health policy in the Bush White House.
Ezra didn't even mention Romney's foreign policy team, led in part by John Bolton (Bush's U.N. ambassador) and Den Senor (Bush's media guy in Iraq in 2003).
That's why the president and his team in Chicago are going with "forward" -- not just because it's aspirational, but because the alternative, they'd argue, is to go back to the same Republican team and agenda that failed so spectacularly in the last decade.
It's not a secret communist plot; it's a message intended to give voters a choice between progress and regress.