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Keep Calm And Win This Thing

In 1939, grim days were upon England. As the Nazi menace crept across Europe, England stood practically alone against the rising darkness. It seemed only a matter of time before Hitler’s unstoppable war machine would leap the Channel, and invade.

Winston Churchill, in his 1939 “A Hush Falls Over Europe” speech, described the moment:

“It is the hush of suspense, and in many lands it is the hush of fear. Listen! No, listen carefully; I think I hear something-yes, there it was quite clear. Don’t you hear it? It is the tramp of armies crunching the gravel of the parade-grounds, splashing through rain-soaked fields, the tramp of two million German soldiers and more than a million Italians.”

England mobilized (a vastly longer story than can be covered here), and in the process of that mobilization, three cultural artifacts emerged that are, in a strangely perfect way, right for the moment we are in as the finish line of the 2012 election heaves into view.

What are these artifacts? Three starkly beautiful propaganda posters. Oh, there are many, many more, but these three are on my mind tonight.

You’ve all seen the most famous one: a singular image, the Tudor crown over four simple words. The moment we see it today, it evokes an image of British courage in the darkest hours of World War II.

Keep Calm and Carry On.

So British. So steady. So counter to the Teutonic excesses of Herr Hitler and his war machine. It speaks to the character of an England ready to face Germany on her own soil. Designed to be used after the inevitable invasion came, one can imagine seeing them by the thousands, plastered on walls and kiosks, on Tube platforms, on pub walls and village signboards.

We have trouble grappling today with the impact of advertising and propaganda posters. While fascinating, they seem deeply anachronistic. However, in a world where radio and print were the mass communication vectors that mattered, Keep Calm and Carry on would have been a touchstone to England’s self-image in the darkest hours…and the Ministry of Information had 2.5 million printed for just that purpose.

But the iconic “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster was never widely distributed. Endless remixes and mashups have made it famous, but the poster was reserved for an invasion that never came, and was nearly lost to history.

When my son and I were in the Imperial War Museum in London over Christmas two years ago, there was the un-issued “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster…but next to it were the two posters that were used during the run-up to and during World War II. I was deeply moved by both of them, more so than by Keep Calm and Carry On, which although I liked, always seemed a bit fatalistic to me as an American.

Today, as the campaign grinds into its final, brutal days, it’s important to remember the other two in this series, and to take them to heart in the coming long hours.

The first, and most widely distributed was this:

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Your Courage. Your Cheerfulness. Your Resolution. Will Bring Us Victory.

They weren’t pitching a draw. They were after victory. There were unashamed of the word, as we should be unashamed of it now.

It came to mind today because we are at the end a long, tough campaign against Barack Obama, his toadies, enablers, cheerleaders and media hagiographers. It’s been brutal, ugly, and exhausting. But victory is in sight.

The Eeyores among us are now catching the vapors with every up and down in the news coverage. They are possessed with a fearful sense that we are so close, but that somehow, some way Barack Obama will pull off a miracle. They’re overthinking the small stuff and falling prey to the con game on the other side. They see the rise and fall of the entire effort in the stochastic noise of a hundred polls. Some of our own are still under the sway of Baghdad Nate.

But friends, remember this in the next four days as you knock those last doors, and make those last calls and as you cast that ballot on Tuesday: your courage, your cheerfulness, your resolution will bring us victory.

Remember it when the inevitable last-weekend opposition research attacks hit tonight or Saturday. Remember it when your last, stubborn, low-engagement friends need convincing. Remember it when the advocacy faction of the media tries to tweak some gaffe into “Mitt Romney: History’s Greatest Villain” all weekend.

Remember it when the egregious, almost comical lies about absolutely every aspect of Romney’s record, character, and history are treated as breathless, cosmic revelations that rock the race to its very core. Remember it as the press tries one last time to restore the only thing Obama had had going for him in this race: the illusion of inevitability.

Go into this last weekend as happy warriors.

Your Courage. Your Cheerfulness. Your Resolution. Will Bring Us Victory.

And if you’re tired or disheartened or burned out or done with the screaming and just want to quit in the final days, I hope you’ll remember the third poster in the series. I like to think if I were in London in 1939, it would be the one that kept me going, and I hope it will for you:

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Freedom is in peril. Defend it with all your might.

Now, get to work, knock doors, make calls, talk to your friends and go vote on Tuesday.

Note: No, Barack Obama isn’t Hitler and the Democrats aren’t the Nazis. That I must add this caveat is a tiresome reminder that the political correctness police have their hissy-fit settings turned up to 11 in these final days.