Those old enough to have lived through the Bay of Pigs and Cuban Missile Crisis; attended the movies Dr. Strangelove, On The Beach and Seven Days In May; and experienced November 22-25, 1963 “as it happened”, might remember Senator Barry Goldwater’s nomination for the presidency on the GOP ticket in 1964. They might also remember the most famous ad in political history that doomed Goldwater, “Daisy”.
In election year 1964, on the heels of the Bay of Pigs, Cuban Missile Crisis and the assassination of President Kennedy, Republican nominee Goldwater vied against Democratic incumbent Lyndon Baines Johnson.
In his acceptance speech for the nomination in what Smithsonian magazine dubbed “the ugliest of Republican conventions since 1912” where “entrenched moderates faced off against conservative insurgents,” Goldwater proclaimed, “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue. »
Goldwater later admitted that the remark was not original with him: « In fact, I believe Cicero used it in some form at one time,” he said, “and I have been able to trace it rather faintly back to some of the early Greeks. So, while I was very proud of the fact that I made the speech, it’s certainly not original. »
Goldwater is often credited with sparking the American conservative movement in the 1960’s and influencing the libertarian movement. Goldwater conservatives rejected the legacy of the New Deal as strongly as conservatives and libertarians today reject government spending on most social programs since enacted. House Speaker Paul Ryan’s GOP 2017 budget proves how Goldwater conservatism of the 1960’s has radically progressed today.
In 1964, however, “an era in which a national consensus seemed to have coalesced around advancing civil rights, containing Communism and expanding government, the moderates believed they had to win to preserve the Republican Party,” wrote Smithsonian magazine. “The conservatives – who wanted to contain the role of the federal government and roll back Communism – believed they were saving not just the party but Western civilization.”
At the Cow Palace in San Francisco, Goldwater conservatives succeeded to break the rule of moderate “Wall Street Republicans” – the “few secret kingmakers in New York,” as Phyllis Schlafly called them, who conspired to run away with the presidential nomination every four years. Several hundred copies of Schlafly’s book, A Choice Not An Echo, were distributed in the summer of 1964 rallying conservatives to defeat “Establishment Republicans” and the “liberal Rockefeller” wing of the party.
The 1964 Goldwater campaign “helped usher in the modern conservative movement in the United States,” according to conservapedia.com. “The political careers of both Phyllis Schlafly and Ronald Reagan got a big boost during the campaign.”
The 1964 campaign also marked the first time since before the Civil War that the states of the Deep South, angered by L.B.J.’s support for civil rights, broke from the Democratic Party and gave their electoral votes to the Republican nominee Goldwater.
Gov. Nelson Rockefeller – a rival candidate for the nomination – cast Goldwater as an opponent of civil rights and an isolationist who wanted to withdraw from the United Nations. Goldwater had lambasted President Johnson for failure in Vietnam and Panama, supported a tougher blockade against Cuba, and encouraged Communist “eviction from positions of control” in the world and keeping the Soviet Union in check. What would later ricochet into the “Daisy” ad, Goldwater mentioned how low grade Atomic bombs could be used to expose the supply of Communists in Vietnam.
Just shy of securing the nomination after winning the California primary, Goldwater began the search for a running mate beginning with four easterners. Among them was William Scranton who was asked by President Eisenhower to be “more available.” Eisenhower disavowed the “Stop Goldwater” movement advising Scranton not to get involved “in a cabal against anyone.” Moderates felt this effectively ended the anti-Goldwater movement. After securing the nomination, Goldwater was asked to soften his political stances.
Exploiting the fissure within the Republican Party and Goldwater’s positions on social security, Cuba, the military, atomic weaponry, the role of the Federal government, together with an unfavorable press and fears over the support given him by the KKK and John Birch Society, President Johnson portrayed Goldwater as an extremist.
Goldwater used the slogan, “In your heart, you know he’s right.” Democrats retorted: “In your gut, you know he’s nuts.”
Goldwater billboard on Atlantic City’s Million Dollar Pier across from Convention Hall near where the 1964 Democratic Convention was being held.
The Goldwater campaign brochure addressed:
“I think that the people’s uneasiness in the stifling omnipresence of government has turned into something approaching alarm. But bemoaning the evil will not drive it back, and accusing fingers will not shrink government.”
“There is a reason for (the Constitution’s) reservation of ‘States’ Rights. The people have long since seen through the spurious suggestion that federal aid comes free. They know that the money comes out of their own pockets, and that it is returned to them minus a broker’s fee taken by the federal bureaucracy. They know, too, that the power to decide how that money shall be spent is withdrawn from them and exercised by some planning board deep in the caverns of one of the federal agencies. They understand this represents a great and perhaps irreparable loss-not only in their wealth, but in their priceless liberty.”
“In the schools, the Attorney General already has the authority through court decrees to effect integration. But if more authority must be granted, we should write a law that is tightly drawn, that can be used like a rifle, not a shotgun … No matter how we try, we cannot pass a law that will make you like me or me like you. The key to racial and religious tolerance lies not in laws alone but, ultimately, in the hearts of men … Unenforceable government edicts benefit no one. Continued public attention and moral persuasion, I believe, will do more, in the long run to create the good will necessary to the acceptance of decent racial relations in all segments of our society.”
“The labor movement was born out of the threat of the loss of freedom through excesses of overbearing business monopolies. It has served well to bring the pendulum back from the extreme. I believe that unionism, in its proper sphere, accomplishes a positive good for the country … But the pendulum has now swung too far in the opposite direction and we are faced, as a people, with the stern obligation to halt a menacing misappropriation of power before it completely engulfs the liberties of labor, management and the general public.”
“I favor a sound Social Security system and I want to see it strengthened. I want to see every participant receive all the benefits this system provides. And I want to see these benefits paid in dollars with real purchasing power … Essentially, protection against need in America depends upon a free economy … I believe Social Security has a vital and legitimate supporting role.”
“Barry Goldwater believes that the first fiscal responsibility of the Federal Government is to preserve the value of the dollar … Local governments must take on more and not less responsibility in meeting needs when those needs are fully established … Let us, by all means, remember the nation’s interest in reducing taxes and spending.”
The Welfare State:
“Barry Goldwater has issued a clear call to halt the relentless drift toward the welfare state … We must elect uncommon men to do an uncommon job for an uncommon country.”
The American Dream:
“I understand what the people of America are saying in this decade. Their message has been heard and understood. The people are now eager for a leader who will restore the Constitutional limitations of government, who will mobilize moral force of 180 million people to reduce and to limit the inequitable, concentration of power in any government, organization or economic combine.”
Go Goldwater “A Choice Not an Echo”
Political advertising for the Johnson campaign was handled by ad agency DDB headed by Bill Bernbach. Attack ads capitalized on Goldwater statements suggesting his willingness to use nuclear weapons that others would find unacceptable. One ad was titled “KKK for Goldwater”; another titled “Eastern Seaboard” took aim at Goldwater saying the country would be better off “if we could just saw off the eastern seaboard and let it float out to sea.”
Bob Dylan once said of Senator Goldwater, “I’m liberal up to a degree, I think everybody should be free, but if you think I’ll let Barry Goldwater move in next door and marry my daughter, you must think I’m crazy. I wouldn’t let him do it for all the farms in Cuba.
“I am compelled to urge Negroes and all people of goodwill to vote against him,” said Martin Luther King, Jr. “His election would be a tragedy, and certainly suicidal almost for the nation and the world.”
As election day approached, DDB, considered the leading force behind the “Creative Revolution” on Madison Avenue during the 1950’s and 1960’s, along with concept and creative consultant Tony Schwartz created for Johnson what became the most famous ad in political history.
Advertising Age lists it as one of the greatest ads of the 20th Century. Roger Ailes (CEO of Fox), Democratic adman Joe Trippi and GOP media consultant Mike Murphy rated it the “#1 Top Game Changing Political Ad of All Time.”
Peace, Little Girl (“Daisy”) aired only once, just after Labor Day in 1964.
After « Daisy » aired, the race was never close, and Johnson won in a landslide.
Peace, Little Girl (« Daisy »)
Candidate: President Lyndon Johnson
Consultant/Creator: Tony Schwartz
Michael T. Bucci is a retired public relations executive currently living in New England. He has authored nine books on practical spirituality collectively titled The Cerithous Material.
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