"Are You Better Off Today Than You Were Four Years Ago?"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Sep 7 16:34:57 UTC 2012

On Sep 7, 2012, at 11:45 AM, Garson O'Toole wrote:

> Fred Shapiro asked
>> I would be interested in any suggestions as to the origin of the
>> election-year question, "Are you better off today than you were
>> four years ago?"
>> When is some version of it first recorded?  When was it
>> popularized?
> Here is an instance from a newspaper opinion piece in 1900. The author
> seems to believe that readers should answer the question affirmatively
> and support the incumbent, McKinley.
> Cite: 1900 September 20, Aberdeen Weekly News, [Untitled opinion
> article], Quote Page 2, Column 4, Aberdeen, South Dakota.
> (GenealogyBank)
> [Begin excerpt]
> Are you better off now than you were four years ago? Are your
> prospects better now than they were then? Do you think your interests
> will he advanced by turning down the policies that have worked so well
> during the past three years and returning to the policies that
> produced the hard times of 1893-1896? These are questions each voter
> should consider, and he can think them out for himself better than any
> other man can think them out for him. The issues now are precisely the
> same as they were four years ago as far as the people of the United
> States are concerned.
> [End excerpt]

Nice find, Garson!  I wonder if Leon Czolgosz was one of those who read this, passing through Aberdeen SD on his way to Buffalo ("Hey, Mr. McKinley/Why didn't you run?/Seein' that man a-comin'/With ta Johnson '41/from Buffalo to Washington"), realized that he really *didn't* feel better off than he had four years earlier, and decided to do something about it.  Of course with anarchists it's hard to tell.


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