Wayne for America!

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In the spirit of election season, two John Wayne-inspired campaigns get our vote.

Written by Jenn Thornton

Come election season, the talk is all about who is on the ticket. This summer that means making way for two campaign platforms we know the Duke would endorse. The first is the return of the John Wayne for President campaign—a collection of T-shirts, hats and other accessories with the winning strategy of having its namesake image front and center. The second, Make America John Wayne Again, is an invitation to be party to what Wayne espoused his entire life: America itself. Her open debate, civil discourse and equal opportunity for all.

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Movie star, leader, sportsman and all-around great guy, Wayne was a walking-talking example of American democracy, a national figure on a massive scale, passionate of opinion, and of good humor and genuine concern too, and he took that responsibility seriously. That, of all the parts he played, is arguably his most important and enduring role. So much, there was momentum for a Wayne presidency. The idea was around for decades in Duke’s day, and at one particular time, got real traction. Few, after all, had the foothold in the American imagination than the man who represented it in both cowboy and combat boots. Had he ever run for office in earnest, it’s hard to imagine Wayne not winning, or at the very least not putting up a helluva fight. He moved in multiple circles—on film sets, military bases, and on-board his boat Wild Goose—with multiple folks and had friends everywhere. People came to feel that they knew him. He was, in quintessential American fashion, of the people.

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No matter how big Wayne got, though, he would be the first to say that he was no match for country he loved. Points of view were one thing, he reasoned, but the nation that allowed them to coexist was far more important. So he would go anywhere, talk to anyone. This includes with American’s fighting man; he kept the memory of meeting with U.S. troops during a 1966 tour of Vietnam close to his heart, and went to obliging battle with student activists at Harvard, where he used the powers of diplomacy and humor to disarm the debaters, turning the whole affair into a good-natured duel among ideological opposites. In Texas, Wayne was legitimately propped up for a presidential run by an outfit that called itself “The American Party.” Though flattered by their support, Duke let them down gently, signing off in a telegram: “As the saying goes, I’d rather be right than president.”

John Wayne in Vietnam during his USO Tour.

John Wayne in Vietnam during his USO Tour.

The Duke in Vietnam visiting wounded soldiers during his USO Tour.

The Duke in Vietnam visiting wounded soldiers during his USO Tour.

Heaven knows Wayne had enough presidents in his life—he was “Mr. Wayne” to Eisenhower, “John” to LBJ, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, and “Duke” to the Reagans. On at least one important issue Wayne found himself allied with Jimmy Carter. FBI juggernaut J. Edgar Hoover and Sen. Ted Kennedy referred to the actor as “Mr. Wayne.” Most importantly to Wayne, however, was what he meant to America herself, which was, first and foremost, one of her own.


“This is a good country. With good people in it. Good people don’t always agree with one another. Maybe the best think we can do in this country is agree to disagree every once in a while.”

— John Wayne

A telegram from John Wayne to President Lyndon B. Johnson.

A telegram from John Wayne to President Lyndon B. Johnson.

A letter from President Lyndon B. Johnson to John Wayne in 1964.

A letter from President Lyndon B. Johnson to John Wayne in 1964.

A letter to John Wayne from Gerald R. Ford, the 38th U.S. president.

A letter to John Wayne from Gerald R. Ford, the 38th U.S. president.

Gerald R. Ford and John Wayne.

Gerald R. Ford and John Wayne.

John Wayne with Richard Nixon, Garry Goldwater and friends.

John Wayne with Richard Nixon, Garry Goldwater and friends.

Ronald Reagan, the 40th president of the U.S. from 19

Ronald Reagan, the 40th president of the U.S. from 1981 to 1989, with his wife Nancy and John Wayne.

Shop the campaigns at John Wayne Stock & Supply.