Published: Sep 30, 2008 11:07 PM
Modified: Sep 30, 2008 01:07 PM
Here is one more thing to watch out for during the time between now and Election Day.
I want you to give attention to a group of people who hang around political gatherings and rallies. Their eyes shift from person to person, from candidate to candidate, and from table to tableÑwherever political paraphernalia is being distributed.
Watch them as they lurk around. They are not perverts. They are not dangerous or evil. But watch for them giving every political person the once over.
These strange people are button collectors. They want to come away with at least one sample of every button they see.
Political button collectors are generally shameless in their efforts to secure buttons. If they cannot find freely distributed buttons at a candidates table, they will accost the candidate directly, sometimes persuading the candidate to part with his own button. Then, the collector, rather than wearing the button, secures it in his pocket and moves on to find another.
Now for a confession. I am one of these people. At least I used to be, until about 25 years ago when I became a candidate for office and gave up collecting.
Most of us, collectors and former collectors, enjoy seeing the collections of others. With every button there is a story.
For instance, take the campaign button for 1972 U.S. Senate candidate Nick Galifianakis, who was running against Jesse Helms. Helms fits easily on to a button, but Galifianakis is a button-full. Meeting this challenge, the Galifianakis campaign came up with the idea of two buttons: Galifi and anakis. It was cute, got attention, and helped give a positive and laughing response to the he is not like us messages about his opponent that sometimes crept into Helmss campaigns.
Those Galifianakis buttons are a proud part of my collection. They are also one small item in a new exhibit of North Carolina related political memorabilia at the Wilson Library in Chapel Hill. Using examples of political buttons and related items, Soapboxes and Tree Stumps, Political Campaigning in North Carolina guides the visitor through more than 100 years of our states election campaign history.
The new exhibit is composed largely of items from the new Lew Powell Memorabilia Collection. Powell, an editor at the Charlotte Observer, is a different kind of collector from the ones I have described. He concentrated on earlier rather than current campaigns. As a result, he had to pay, sometimes big bucks, for historic buttons like some special ones in the late 1800s and early 1900s when North Carolina white Democrats were wresting control of the states government from a coalition of Republicans, African Americans, and Populists.
An early badge associated with industrialist and philanthropist Julian Shakespeare Carr (for whom Carrboro was named) says North Carolina Redeemed, which refers, according the exhibit, to the effort by Democrats to break the Republican-Populist coalition.
Among the many great buttons that caught my attention were an Ah Lahk Ike from the 1950s, a 2000 button with a photo of Michael Jordan in support of presidential candidate Bill Bradley, and a 2004 John Edwards button with a close up of Edwards face and a caption that said Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear, which was meant to suggest that Edwards was very close behind John Kerry and catching up fast.
The exhibit runs through April 15. If you are a button collector, a political junkie, or anyone with a passion for North Carolina history, dont miss it.
D.G. Martin is the host of UNC-TVs North Carolina Bookwatch, which airs Fridays at 9:30 p.m. and Sundays at 5 p.m.