Campaigns Upgrade, But Political Buttons Endure

Weekend Edition host Scott Simon talks to Mort Berkowitz, who has been making political buttons since 1976. He shares some of his favorites with host Scott Simon.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Political campaigns have been transformed in so many ways over the decades. But you wouldn't want to wear a silicon chip or a yard sign in your lapel. Mort Berkowitz has made political buttons since 1976, and says business is still good. He joins us now from member station WBUR in Boston. Mr. Berkowitz, thanks for being with us.

MORT BERKOWITZ: My pleasure.

SIMON: You've seen a lot of buttons over the years, haven't you?

BERKOWITZ: Yes, I have.

SIMON: Any favorites you can share with us?

BERKOWITZ: One that we did for Hillary Clinton where we dyed her hair orange and cut her hair short and changed her name to Hillary Rodman Clinton, as bad as she wants to be.

SIMON: Like Dennis Rodman, the basketball player.

BERKOWITZ: Exactly, after Dennis. And the greatest compliment a button-maker can get - she used it in her speech to the 1996 convention in Chicago.

SIMON: You, of course, we'll stipulate, produce buttons for both major parties, yes?

BERKOWITZ: We are an equal opportunity offender. We did I liked Hillary four years ago, but we did a very nice Chelsea button: don't tell mama but I'm voting for Obama.

SIMON: Oh my God. Now, who pays for a button like that?

BERKOWITZ: Well, let me tell you that after 1976, national campaigns stopped producing political buttons that they used to give out to all of their headquarters around the country. All their money went into print and then into broadcast journalism - television, sorry. So, what happened was that local Democratic and Republican clubs all around the country started to make their own political buttons - in other words, they would order from people like me - and re-supply all around the country. So, some of the Republican buttons that we've done right now, right from the start, it's the Economy Stupid, Romney/Ryan, Yes We Can Bankrupt America, I'm Voting for the American, Romney. And on the other side, if you recall, that one of Paul Ryan's first jobs was driving the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile with his head out the window yelling want more bologna? I'm not a binder, I'm a woman. Romney has Romnesia. You know, it just goes on and on.

SIMON: Why do you think the button persists at a time when people can send out a 140-character message on Twitter?

BERKOWITZ: Because when you walk down the street, a lot of people like to identify themselves, who they are, who they support and you can't do that on Twitter. You can't Twitter yourself on your jacket or your shirt. And there are people that still walk around who do not sit all the time in front of a computer.

SIMON: Well, Mr. Berkowitz, awfully nice speaking with you.

BERKOWITZ: Thank you so much.

SIMON: Mort Berkowitz is president of Bull Concepts, a political button company.

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SIMON: And this is NPR News.

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