The Sound of History

By Mark Shields

September 10, 2016 4 min read

What comes to mind when you listen to the two last names of a presidential ticket spoken as one word? For example, I always thought the winning 1980/'84 combination of Republicans Ronald Reagan and George Bush, or "Reagan-Bush," sounded like an Oktoberfest event in Wisconsin. "We had a great time at this year's Reagan-Bush."

Did not the winning 1976 Democratic pairing of Jimmy Carter and Walter "Fritz" Mondale, "Carter-Mondale," sound like a medium-sized chain of department stores? "Where did you get that jacket?" "On sale at Carter-Mondale."

The 1976 Republican team of President Jerry Ford and Sen. Bob Dole, who lost, was that rare joining of two single-syllable surnames. Taken together, "Ford-Dole" sounds as if it could be spoken after the introduction to your weekly local business show. "Welcome. I'm your host, Ford Dole."

In 1960, the Republican ticket was composed of Richard M. Nixon and Henry Cabot Lodge, who lost to John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. "Nixon-Lodge" sounds like an upscale rustic retreat where sportsmen might go to hunt "Bush-Quayle," the merged name of the 1988/'92 Republican ticket. Who sounds more like a highly touted wide receiver who is a first-round selection in the NFL's annual draft than "Kennedy Johnson"?

The Democrats have won the past two national elections on a ticket consisting of Barack Obama and Joe Biden. "What was the name of that memorable little German town with the beautiful 17th-century monastery? ... I just remembered. It was Obama-Biden."

Inverting the names in the winning 1964 Democratic ticket, Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey, makes for a name that sounds like that of the peer in the House of Lords who formerly served as chancellor of the exchequer — "The Right Honourable Humphrey Johnson."

The defeated 2004 Democratic nominees, Sens. John Kerry and John Edwards? You have to admit that "Kerry Edwards'' brings to mind an attractive model-actress who has graced the front covers of Vogue, Harper's Bazaar and Rolling Stone.

President Thomas Jefferson's VP was the infamous Aaron Burr, who, while being a heartbeat away from the presidency, terminated — in a historic duel — the beating heart of Alexander Hamilton, the nation's first and most important secretary of the treasury. To these ears, "Jefferson-Burr" suggests the podiatrist's diagnosis of what is causing her patient's discomfort. "This is, frankly, the most serious case of Jefferson-Burr I have ever encountered."

The 2016 Republican nominee, Donald Trump, as we know, chose Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to run with him. Put them together and "Trump-Pence" sounds like an old English term for a next-to-worthless currency denomination. "I wouldn't give you a trump-pence for your sheep."

What about this year's Democratic couple, Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine? An abbreviated version, "Clint Kaine," could be the title of a new Netflix series about a hard-drinking lone wolf — but still vulnerable — private eye.

I still haven't been able to figure out what the 2000 Democratic ticket of Al Gore and Joe Lieberman or the 2008 GOP unit of John McCain and Sarah Palin suggests, other than maybe a small law firm ("Call Gore-Lieberman; we'll be there) and perhaps a generic drug to treat terminal dandruff ("You need to refill your McCain-Palin prescription").

How do this year's tickets sound to you?

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

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