1964 Johnson VS. Goldwater
"Confessions of a Republican"
The Living Room Candidate - Transcript
"Confessions of a Republican," Johnson, 1964
[TEXT: Confessions of a Republican]
REPUBLICAN: I don't know just why they wanted to call this a confession; I certainly don't feel guilty about being a Republican. I've always been a Republican. My father is, his father was, the whole family is a Republican family. I voted for Dwight Eisenhower the first time I ever voted; I voted for Nixon the last time. But when we come to Senator Goldwater, now it seems to me we're up against a very different kind of a man. This man scares me.
Now maybe I'm wrong. A friend of mine just said to me, "Listen, just because a man sounds a little irresponsible during a campaign doesn't mean he's going to act irresponsibly." You know that theory, that the White House makes the man. I don't buy that. You know what I think makes a President - I mean, aside from his judgement, his experience - are the men behind him, his advisors, the cabinet. And so many men with strange ideas are working for Goldwater. You hear a lot about what these guys are against - they seem to be against just about everything - but what are they for?
The hardest thing for me about this whole campaign is to sort out one Goldwater statement from another. A reporter will go to Senator Goldwater and he'll say, "Senator, on such and such a day, you said, and I quote, 'blah blah blah' whatever it is, end quote." And then Goldwater says, "Well, I wouldn't put it that way." I can't follow that. Was he serious when he did put it that way? Is he serious when he says I wouldn't put it that way? I just don't get it. A President ought to mean what he says.
President Johnson, Johnson at least is talking about facts. He says, "Look, we've got the tax cut bill and because of that you get to carry home X number of dollars more every payday. We've got the nuclear test ban and because of that there is X percent less radioactivity in the food." But, but Goldwater, often, I can't figure out just what Goldwater means by the things he says. I read now where he says, "A craven fear of death is sweeping across America. What is that supposed to mean? If he means that people don't want to fight a nuclear war, he's right. I don't. When I read some of these things that Goldwater says about total victory, I get a little worried, you know? I wish I was as sure that Goldwater is as against war as I am that he's against some of these other things. I wish I could believe that he has the imagination to be able to just shut his eyes and picture what this country would look like after a nuclear war.
Sometimes, I wish I'd been at that convention at San Francisco. I mean, I wish I'd been a delegate, I really do. I would have fought, you know. I wouldn't have worried so much about party unity because if you unite behind a man you don't believe in, it's a lie. I tell you, those people who got control of that convention: Who are they? I mean, when the head of the Ku Klux Klan, when all these weird groups come out in favor of the candidate of my party — either they're not Republicans or I'm not.
I've thought about just not voting at this election, just staying home — but you can't do that, that's saying you don't care who wins, and I do care. I think my party made a bad mistake in San Francisco, and I'm going to have to vote against that mistake on the third of November.
MALE NARRATOR: Vote for President Johnson on November 3rd. The stakes are too high for you to stay home.
"Confessions of a Republican," Democratic National Committee, 1964Video courtesy of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library.
From Museum of the Moving Image, The Living Room Candidate: Presidential Campaign Commercials 1952-2012.
www.livingroomcandidate.org/commercials/1964/confessions-of-a-republican (accessed December 10, 2023).
President Lyndon B. Johnson, who took office following John F. Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963, enhanced his image as a tough legislator by winning a hard-fought battle to pass the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, which guaranteed African-Americans access to all public facilities, and banned discrimination by race, religion, or sex. The Vietnam War was escalating, but had yet to become a real liability for Johnson.
The margin of Johnson’s landslide victory in 1964 was partly a repudiation of Barry Goldwater’s extreme right-wing views. Goldwater, an Arizona senator and author of the best-selling book The Conscience of a Conservative, won the Republican nomination after a bitter primary campaign against moderate New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller. In his acceptance speech, Goldwater made the infamous statement, "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue." The assertion, meant as a defense of conservatism, merged in the public consciousness with statements in which Goldwater advocated the use of tactical nuclear weapons in Vietnam and argued that Social Security be made voluntary.
Hubert Humphrey for vice president
"Vote for President Johnson on November 3. The Stakes Are Too High for You to Stay at Home"
The most celebrated and perhaps most notorious of all political commercials was aired as a paid spot just once, during the NBC Movie of the Week on September 7, 1964. In Johnson’s
The Goldwater campaign vigorously protested the ad. Republican National Committee chairman Dean Burch said, "This horror-type commercial is designed to arouse basic emotions and has no place in the campaign." The Democrats withdrew it, but the controversy led to its being replayed in its entirety on network news and commentary programs, and the "daisy girl" made the cover of Time.
With its suggestive style and provocative sounds and visuals, the daisy ad exemplified Johnson’s innovative commercials, which were produced by the vanguard New York agency Doyle Dane Bernbach and were almost exclusively attack ads.
President Kennedy had been impressed by the strikingly modern approach of the agency’s Volkswagen "Think Small" and Avis "We Try Harder" campaigns, and the agency was contracted by the Democrats in the summer of 1963. Madison Avenue had been avoiding the Democrats since the days of Stevenson, but the agency accepted the account promptly, later explaining to Johnson’s advisers, "We are deadly afraid of Goldwater and feel that the world must be handed a Johnson landslide."
William Miller for vice president
"In Your Heart You Know He’s Right"
Compared to the Johnson ads, Goldwater’s were old-fashioned, with extensive use of talking-head endorsements and a series of commercials emulating "Eisenhower Answers America." The ads reflected the fundamental problem of Goldwater’s campaign, namely that he was almost always on the defensive, constantly explaining his statements or responding to charges against him. The ads probably exacerbated Goldwater’s problems by keeping the original charges (of war-mongering, of intending to dismantle Social Security) in the public consciousness.
As the defensive commercials proved ineffective, a second wave of ads attempted to launch a counterattack. But a Goldwater ad juxtaposing images of Khrushchev shouting,
The campaign relied less on spot commercials than on half-hour broadcasts, which were used as fundraising appeals. One of Goldwater’s most effective half-hour programs was an endorsement speech by Ronald Reagan that put the Hollywood actor in the national spotlight as a political figure, leading to his successful run for governor of California in 1966.