Tag: Elections

HHH: Vote for Hubert Horatio Humphrey!


Just three letters said it all. In 1968, “HHH” could mean only one thing in the United States: Hubert Horatio Humphrey. He was the vice-president of the country, and more importantly, the Democratic Party candidate for the upcoming presidential elections.


Like countless candidates before him, Humphrey’s face and name became integral visual elements of an election campaign. From picture posters to matchbooks, ceramic plates to calendars, and even cushions—Humphrey appeared everywhere and anywhere that year.

One of the cheapest and most widely available platform for advertising then was the button. Candidates gave out this small fashion accessory for free, and supporters who wore them became personal billboards for their campaign. The button is usually circular, although it has also been produced as tabs, lapels and other forms. Regardless of shape, the size of a button is always limited—typically ranging between 1 to 4 inches—so the message it carries has to be effective and economical.


Recognizing what a mouthful his name was, Humphrey condensed it to “HHH” for the ‘68 campaign. He must have learnt from President Lyndon Baines Johnson, better known as LBJ, whom he had successfully run for office with just four years before. While the portrait of a candidate or his name was commonly used on a button since this marketing device was first introduced in the 1896 elections, the times were a’changing. As television took over the role of giving a face to the candidate from the 1950s, buttons could look more abstract. “HHH” not only fitted easily into a button, it combined to create a distinct logotype that was paired with different designs in various styles

This particular set of buttons have nothing else on them except “HHH” set in what looks like an extra condensed version of typeface News Gothic Bold. While the buttons of his competitor, Richard Nixon, came in the traditional patriotic colors of red, blue, and white, this set of Humphrey pins were unusual with their colorful mustard yellow and aqua green background. Perhaps it was a reminder of how Humphrey stood  up for the colored and was the main author of the Civil Rights Act. Or had the psychedelic ‘60s crept into the politics of this liberal candidate?

Additionally, these buttons do not match the official ones given out by the Democrats’ national committees. They could have been issued by local offices or commercial companies eager to cash in on the growing popularity of collecting campaign buttons. Just as how money and politics are so intertwined in the US, campaign buttons were commoditized. By 1973, a Hobby Protection Act was even enacted to protect collectors from imitation items that had flooded the market.

Several clues on these buttons suggest they are legitimate. Instead of having a separate safety pin on their backs, these buttons have bent pins integrated in them just like early designs. The edges of the buttons also have printed labels that read “Allied Printing”, presumably a historical union printer.


One thing is for sure: Humphrey’s campaign was unlike the orderly arrangement of the buttons’ design and their celebratory colors. In 1968, he not only struggled to overcome a Democratic party divided by the Vietnam War, the nominee kept coming up against angry anti-war protestors, which even led to police violence. Humphrey narrowly lost to Nixon, rendering “HHH” just another slogan of a failed presidential campaign.

Written for Steven Heller’s Researching Design class at D-Crit.

Lost Local Things

Singapore Design

“Days Of Being Wild” is a book by Dana Lam about the opposition political parties during the Singapore General Elections of 2006 that was published and designed by Ethos Books. This is interesting on various aspects, firstly, it is a book about the opposition political parties in Singapore and secondly, it has an interesting design background. According to Mr Fong Hoe Fang, the founder of Ethos Books, the book was not very well-publicised by the local media nor well-stocked by local bookstores because of its content. That aside, just by looking at the cover and the first page, some interesting design concepts appear. The juxtaposition of the massive crowd gathered to hear a rally by an opposition party against the riot police sets up the theme of opposition. In the pages of the book, the way the text is set allows for what Mr Fong calls “a-story-within-a-story”, the blue words belong to the author but the red words are quotes from people on the streets.

Singapore Music

I stumbled upon Kopi Kat Klan, a lost local band, when a friend couldn’t stop gushing and giggling about this really sweet song by them, “Ice-Kachang”, so she googled and found “Why You So Like Dat”. Truly authentic lyrics that only a Singaporean can understand.

Singapore Comics

“Mr Kiasu” comics has got to be one of the most recognisable local icons that eventually died out. I always wondered what happened to it and I found that Youth.SG actually tracked Mr Johnny Lau, its creator, down and interviewed him about Mr Kiasu, why it stopped and what he has been doing ever since.

Read the interview here.

I classified these three items under “Lost Local Things” because many of these things have never been recognised as truly Singaporean by the government, yet when I tell fellow Singaporeans about it, they nod in agreement about how Singaporean it is. These things become lost because they engender taboo topics as determined by the government: Singlish and opposition political parties. This is just the tip of the iceberg of what is lost, now if only more of us will start digging and start remembering what it means to be a Singaporean.

Getting an education in politics

I find it a coincidence that the year I began school also marked the beginning of Mr Low Thia Khiang’s start as my Member of Parliament in Hougang.

I was just completing my first year in primary school, when Mr Low of The Workers’ Party defeated Mr Tang Guang Seng of the People’s Action Party to win the Hougang Ward in 1991.

The only thing I remembered then was heading to the Hougang Stadium across from my house with my parents to attend the rallies of both parties.

I was dwarfed amongst the throngs who had come to hear the candidates and we were entertained for hours as they made speeches and jibes at each other. That marked the beginning of my education in politics.

It seemed like harmless entertainment then. Only years later did I learn that it was not that funny after all, as many of the opposition candidates ended up facing lawsuits for libel because of the things they said during their rallies.

In December 1996, my mornings often began with noise from the megaphone of the candidates who had hired vans to literally drive their message home. Sounds of “Vote for Low Thia Khiang” and “Vote for Heng Chee How” confused a boy who would only be beginning secondary school in a few days time.

I remembered asking my parents and myself: Who were these people?

This time around when we headed to the Hougang Stadium to watch the rallies, everything made much more sense.

Aside from the fact that I was taller and could see more of the stage, I had also become a newspaper reader.

The drama that unfolded in the days up to Polling Day filled the newspapers as personalities like Mr Tang Liang Hong and Mr J B Jeyaretnam fuelled the most exciting campaigning I have ever seen till today.

The crowd and I lapped it up, as if it was the only time our inner most grouses about the state of affairs in Singapore was articulated by tthese daring men.

They showed me how the PAP was not always right in their decisions and there was a need for more active citizenry and some kind of opposition in Parliament to ensure things were in check.

Even though both of them got sued for libel, and have become shadows of their former selves, I am still grateful for that 1997 campaign that cemented the foundations of my education in politics.

Politics, I learnt, went beyond the upgrading of flats and handouts, but rather meant a greater discussion about the direction that Singapore should take and what policies it should take to get there.

For the next five years, like every teenager who needed something to stand out, I wore the badge of living in an opposition ward with pride (yes, Mr Low Thia Khiang won again!). I felt a need to defend this pride and it forced me to keep abreast of the latest in Singapore politics through the news.

More often than not, I was disappointed, as the media was more preoccupied with the ruling party and its policies than giving a voice to the opposition. But, with only two out of 83 seats in Parliament in 1997, it is no wonder they were crowded out.

I also got to watch the estates around me get upgraded while there was hardly any upgrading in Hougang. It was the price we had to pay for voting in the opposition, I was told.

Yet, it was not as if my estate was left to crumble. We might not have the frills, but my estate has always been clean and well maintained. What more could I ask from one man as compared to one party?

More important to me, was the fact that the opposition was in Parliament to ask the questions that would often elude other members who came from the same party.

Very often, the opposition brought about a diversity of views that questioned the implementation of possibily myopic policies.

The next general elections arrived in 2001. That was when I learnt about how institution and legislation could act as barriers to the opposition.

The re-drawing of electoral boundaries wiped out the ward across the road from my hosue — Cheng San Group Representation Constituency (GRC) — and it became part of Aljunied GRC. Cheng San GRC was where The Workers’ Party almost won in 1997.

Till today, it still amuses me how you can live in Hougang and not be part of the Hougang ward, but belong to the Aljunied ward instead.

It has been 15 years and I still live in Hougang, an opposition ward. This upcoming general elections mark the first time I will be able to cast a vote. I count myself lucky, because there are Singaporeans out there who have never got this chance.

Moreover, I have been educated in the sights, sounds and thoughts of what an election is about, something which has prevented me from becoming just another apathetic Singaporean.

The Nanyang Chronicle, 29th March 2006