Will Barack Obama Be “Hell-Bent for Election” in 2012?

It’s not even 2012 yet and this is turning out to be one of the saddest and most lackluster presidential campaign seasons in recent memory. Barring a societal or economic meltdown of Mayan Prophecy proportions (and no, the so-called Great Recession doesn’t quite reach that level), I don’t see how Barack Obama can lose.

That’s not to say that he’s been kicking ass for the last three-or-so-years. Aside from taking out bin Laden, perhaps Obama’s most memorable accomplishment this term has been that he kept McCain and Palin out of the White House. And for me at least, that still counts for something. I just wonder if he’ll have much ammo to use when a Republican candidate finally emerges from the farcical battle royale that has been the GOP Octagon, which is down another competitor now that Herman “I’m Quitting Because I’m a Fighter” Cain has tapped out.

The safe money right now seems to be on either Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich. But whoever leaves Tampa Bay with the GOP nod next August, it would be most unwise for Obama’s supporters or campaign handlers to assume victory. This comes to mind now because recently I stumbled upon a fascinating find from 1944. It’s an animated, pro-FDR campaign film called Hell-Bent for Election, sponsored by your friendly United Auto Workers union.

What interests me about it from a political standpoint is that while Roosevelt was nigh untouchable in 1944 — World War II was clearly swinging the Allies’ way and the economy was humming — his supporters were taking no chances. The cartoon is 13 minutes long, but it’s definitely worth it no matter your affiliation.

Wow. Not a lot of subtlety there. Without even getting into the dialogue, let’s look at how the film portrayed both sides in the ’44 election.

Franklin D. Roosevelt (D)

Hell-Bent for Election (1944)

I like the glasses on the train. Nice touch.

Roosevelt’s sleek, ultra-modern train is dubbed the “Win the War Express.” Dewey’s “Defeatist Limited,” on the other hand, carries cars called Hot Air, the Business As Usual Sleeper, and the Jim Crow Car. Oof.

Thomas E. Dewey (R)

Hell-Bent for Election (1944)

1929?! Hmm, didn’t something bad happen then?

Aw, that’s just not fair. Dewey was barely out of law school in 1929. Incidentally, I think “Defeatist Limited” was the original name for Amtrak.

Most of the film centers on a burly, blond hulk named Joe. Joe is a railroad worker. A simple man. All he wants to do is to make sure the Win the War Express gets through to its final destination, and he’s sternly reminded (by Uncle Sam no less) that during the mid-term election of ’42 the Democrats lost eight seats. So here’s some more subtle imagery for you.

Joe, Roosevelt supporter

Hell-Bent for Election (1944)

Just looking at him puts hair on your chest.

Horace Moneybags, Dewey supporter

Hell-Bent for Election (1944)

Boo! Hiss!

Moneybags tries brute force to stop Joe, and then resorts to some typical corporate skulduggery. When that also fails, Moneybags lets his true nature slip, and then comes an image that probably had a little resonance with Americans in 1944:

Hell-Bent for Election (1944)

Oh yeah, they just went there.

So there you go. Moneybags is Adolf Hitler. Ipso facto, a Dewey win will usher in a Nazi America.

Well, you certainly can’t argue that hyperbole and low blows are new to American politics.

You know how the film ends, of course. After Joe wakes up from a rather trippy dream sequence he shows Moneybags what for, and FDR’s Big Chin Express roars to victory. The last part of Hell-Bent for Election is a litany of promised benefits for all Americans in a fourth Roosevelt term, all set to one of the peppiest damn political songs you’ve ever heard.

Top that, Obama!

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