Confessions of a Republican

William Bogert

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.

William Bogert

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.

2016

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.

6 thoughts on “Confessions of a Republican

  1. What a find! They’re both great ads. The original reminds me a little of Aaron Sorkin’s movie writing; getting to the polemical point in a good taut dramatic speech (I prefer Sorkin’s “moment of drama” speeches in movies like “Steve Jobs” or “The Social Network” over everybody always making those speeches constantly, as in “The West Wing.”)

    And Bogert is an excellent actor. Who knows if he 100% supported what he was saying, here, it doesn’t hugely matter.

    That LBJ “Daisy” ad can, in a sense, be considered one of the first “viral” or “media meta” ads; it was talked about and commented on more than seen.

    As for buttering corn-on-the-cob that way, it’s not insane! (Although sensible people just butter corn from a new stick of butter sitting on a butter plate.) It’d be really useful if you were using the buttered bread to make grilled cheese sandwiches afterwards, although I can’t imagine a situation where I’d be craving buttered corn and butter-fried cheese sandwiches at the same time. You gotta get some green veg in there for that mix; there’s only so much of yummy heart-exploding goodness one can take in a single setting. Unless one is Danish.

    • The ads are really good but they also make me despair because I know that we’ve moved so far away from political ads that time to connect with the intellect.

      But on the more important issue of butter corn, I think there are a few things worth noting. First, I think everyone that saw that thought it was a brilliant idea. It’s disgusting for other reasons. The first is that it is clearly margarine and not butter. So it looks kind of plastic. Also: that’s a whole lot of margarine! From my perspective, corn does not need anything on it. I love corn. I’m even kind of on the mother’s side: I barely cook my corn. Regardless, that scene is the main thing I remember from the movie! The only other thing that stands out is when Matthew Broderick talks about how he always assumed that he would have time to learn to swim. The film has a lot of good character actors in it!

      • Definitely a lot of great character actors in that movie. In a way, it’s like a “Twilight Zone” episode: good character actors, timely issue script with an easily comprehensible plot. (One that’s maybe even scarier now than when the film came out, in some ways!)

        Corn is great, but a pain-in-the-ass to backyard grow. It doesn’t self-pollinate. Each little corn silk strand on the top is connected to one kernel, and if all of them aren’t pollinated by wind blowing from one corn plant to another, you end up with a bare white cob that has, like, ten yellow kernels on it. The regular plant pollinators, bees, tiny birds, etc., won’t do corn. This is why they’re always commercially grown in huge tightly-packed fields; you need wind and close circumstances for that shit.

        Margarine is just Pure Evil. However, the random chemical stew that comprises movie theater popcorn butter is awesome, although it probably could be used as heavy-machine lubricant.

        • Around the time of that movie, I was very involved with the nuclear freeze movement. What bothers me about now is that people don’t worry that much about nukes but the threat is as bad as ever. And the more you know about our history the worse it is. There are so many times when we came really close to having a nuclear war. Maybe it’s best that people don’t know much about it. It’s not like our government would do anything about it if the threat were more widely understood.

          I tried to grow corn once and it was colonized by aphids. I really should consider trying to grow some food though. I think it might ground me emotionally. The world is out of balance and it’s affecting me.

  2. The wonderful thing about backyard plants (besides being able to eat them) is they’re a total lesson in humility. You can do everything right and a plant might die; you can do everything wrong and the plant might thrive. It’s really up to Mama Nature more than you. A good thunderstorm will bring more nitrogen into the soil than any commercially-available fertilizer.

    I’m currently trying to get some perennials going; as one can imagine, this is a little tricky in Minnesota. (Artichokes, for example, will not survive winters here — they can in California.) Watching any plant poke its head from the ground is deeply satisfying. Watching one do so after there was two feet of snow on the ground two weeks prior feels almost like a biblical miracle. Although Exodus never mentioned “plague of rabbits,” who are the bane of my backyard existence. I hate those fuckers. They’ve been surgically murdering our raspberries, biting the stems off at ground level.

    You might try garlic, it’s a joy. Each clove of garlic, once it’s overwintered, will become a full head. The standard white garlic available in stores is usually a California variety that can’t survive winters here. It’s about the lowest-effort plant imaginable; you just shove cloves into the ground in October and it starts sprouting in April. (Ours is a variety from Georgia, the former SSR, not the US state, so if it was cultured after 1986 it’s possibly a radiation mutant like some William Castle movie of plants.) Next time you don’t use up a full head of garlic before it starts to go bad, consider sticking a few remaining cloves in the ground; you never know what can pop up come spring. And rabbits won’t touch them. But they’ll eat the shit out of raspberries.

    Getting back to the original article, I can’t believe how unterrified people are of nukewar now. It wasn’t that long ago when activists were spreading the word about how incinerated people/ash could block out the sun, making photosynthesis impossible. If we ever found out the bombs were dropping, my first instinct would be to drive straight to the targeted epicenter; a slow death from plants not growing is the stuff of nightmares.

    • I’ll give the garlic a try. I like the idea of not having to work. When I was a little kid, I grew some carrots and I found it amazing. But it required digging in the ground so I didn’t continue.

      Because of the nuclear winter, it’s unlikely many people would survive in the northern hemisphere. Things would be much better in the southern hemisphere. Of course, I’m not that keen on living today. I definitely wouldn’t want to survive a nuclear war.

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