The “Clinton Thumb” was used for the first time by John F. Kennedy and then later adopted by Bill Clinton in the 1990’s. The gesture is made up of the thumb leaning against the middle phalanx of the index finger, which is protruding slightly from a closed fist. The gesture has found the middle-ground between being emphatic and yet not exhibiting the anger of the clenched fist or the accusatory aggression of the pointed finger. To me it symbolises a subtle method of political spin and the softening of otherwise hard power, whereby real political power is euphemised into a system of stealthy but harmless body language.
Revisiting the poster and looking for new material to expand it, it occurred to me that a lot of the political changes that have happened in the past five to six years also shows itself in the material I’ve used. Included in the poster are politicians no longer in the game: Barack Obama, Angela Merkel, Hillary Clinton, Theresa May, Pernille Skipper, Boris Johnson. As well as the new blood: Kamela Harris, Sanna Marin, Ursula von der Leyen, Jacenda Ardern, Rishi Sunak, Alex Vanopslagh, Olaf Schloz.
What is perhaps even more interesting are the politicians of our time who do not use the gesture, coincidentally the same politicians who are more radical, populist or uncompromising. Notable examples are: Donald Trump, Giorgia Meloni, Jair Bolsonaro, Viktor Orbán, Alexander Lukashenko, and Vladimir Putin.
Generally it seems that the Clinton Thumb seems to be on the decline. From when I started the project back in 2016, it has become more difficult to find politicians doing the gesture. In contrast to this, finding photos of contemporary politicians making clenched fists, pointing their fingers or opening their fists and arms seem to have become a more simple task.