Amid all the craziness that was the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference, there was at least one moment that might stick with us for the long run: Sarah Palin and her Big Gulp. She was of course riffing on the failure of Mayor Bloomberg’s ban on the sale of large sodas. Regardless of which side you’re on in the soda debate, Palin’s Big Gulp was well-received by the CPAC crowd.
So the soda pop gimmick was a win for Sarah Palin, but there’s a long history of politicians who reach for some extra props to make a point. Some of them worked spectacularly, while others turned out to be ill-advised.
During the heat of the healthcare debate in 2009, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle struggled to have their voices heard. Florida Democrat Alan Grayson choreographed a poster-laden performance on the House floor. Thanks to Grayson, the words “die quickly” left their mark on the healthcare debate.
The partisan divide was equally tense during the 2011 debt ceiling debate, and Minnesota Senator Al Franken turned to visual aids. Before entering the political scene in 2009, Franken was well-known as a writer and cast member on Saturday Night Live. Despite what some may have expected, or hoped, Franken left his comedy chops at the doors of the Capitol. But when the debt ceiling debacle rolled around, Franken had what a newspaper in his home state dubbed an “SNL moment.” During a speech on the Senate floor, Franken ran through a slew of consequences of not raising the debt ceiling, including the furlough of counterterrorism and border agents. The result, according to Franken’s poster at least: “Welcome Terrorists.”
Art direction is not always a winning strategy though. In 2006, for example, Republican Congressman Steve King introduced a solution to border security by constructing a model for an electrified border fence. King concluded the narrative by suggesting that his simply constructed wall was really nothing new. After all, similar models are used for livestock.
Take a look at the Hardball Sideshow for the more of the winners and losers in political props, including one that the Capitol Police saw fit to quash, out of concern that the pure weight of it could demolish the stage.