The iconic political commercial of the 1964 presidential election was Johnson’s Daisy ad. It featured a little girl pulling the leaves off a daisy while she counted them. Then, in voice-over, we hear a countdown and a nuclear explosion.
Then we hear Johnson saying, “These are the stakes. To make a world in which all of God’s children can live, or to go into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die.” And we are finally told to vote for him because, “The stakes are too high for you to stay home.”
Everyone at the time knew what this meant: if Goldwater became president, he would start a nuclear war. That may have been unfair. And even at the time it was criticized, which may explain why it only aired once. Not that it needed to run again. The ad hammered home what most people were already thinking.
Confessions of a Republican
There was another Johnson ad during that campaign: Confessions of a Republican. It ran a number of times. And it was very intellectual. It’s for that reason and many others that it would never be used today.
It’s a remarkable ad in its authenticity. But I’m not sure that it moved many people. It seems like the kind of ad that would move someone like me. But we are unlikely to need convincing.
What I find most interesting is the actor, William Bogert. For people of my age, he will always be remembered as the father in War Games who butters his corn in an unusual (and somehow disgusting) way.
He’s telling the truth: he had been a Republican. In fact, he was indicative of the great party consolidation that was going on in the mid-1960s where liberal Republicans were becoming Democrats and racist Democrats were becoming Republicans. But I don’t know if he ever became a Democrat. I know that he was married to Muppet puppeteer Eren Ozker, so he must have been a liberal.
But what’s even more interesting about Bogert is that he did very little filmed acting until about 10 years after he did this ad. He’d been acting since about 10 years before the ad. But there isn’t much documentation. He could have been working in television but it’s more likely he was doing theater and industrial films. He certainly seem comfortable with the camera in the ad.
In 2016, Bogert filmed a follow-up ad for Hillary Clinton regarding Donald Trump. It’s also good. Very authentic. And it didn’t change anything. Because apparently a lot of Americans do like unpredictability in the use of nuclear weapons.
William Bogert died on 12 January of this year. I’m reserving judgement. If Trump wins in November, I’ll be glad Bogert didn’t live to see it. But if Trump loses, well, that will make Bogert’s death sad. But I’ll live with it — distracted as I am dancing in the streets.
Image cropped from the original ad, which is in the public domain.