Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Break From Democratic Convention Coverage: Presidential Campaign Ads From the 50's and 60's

It is interesting to look back at presidential campaign ads when television was in its infancy. The top two ads on this posting show an advertisement for Adlai Stevenson in 1952 and for Eisenhower in 1952. Stylistically, they resemble advertising jingles for products. They contain little information. They seem to be mostly good old fashioned pep cheers.
By 1960, television had become a part of millions more homes than it had been in 1952, when it was an expensive luxury item. The percentage of homes with TV had shot from 34 % to 87% from 1952 to 1960. The third ad in this posting is a JFK advertisement from his successful 1960 run against Richard Nixon. Allthough the ad still has the pep rally approach, it advances the argument that Kennedy is both youthful and experienced. The ad further addresses the reservations many voters had about Kennedy's Roman Catholic faith in the course of the same jingle. It is interesting that the advertisement displayed African American voters at a time when many citizens of colour were legally disenfranchised and still struggling to outlaw segregation.
The Lyndon Johnson "Daisy Ad" shows a little girl counting down daisy petals against the ominous backdrop of a nuclear weapon launch count down. The ad was as deceitful as it was advanced. It portrayed Republican candidate Barry Goldwater as a trigger happy mad man. It was very effective. It is ironic that Johnson, the "peace" president presided over a massive military buildup in Vietnam that was hampered by political considerations. Goldwater's slogan was "In your heart you know he's right." The Democrats countered with the slogan, "In your guts , you know he's nuts.
It is interesting to note that Goldwater makes many points in the advertisement presented here that still resonate in our times. It seems that disagreement on American military policy that existed in 1964 between the two major parties was tactical and not a matter of basic political philosophy. I do not know if the same thing could be said today.
On a more optimistic note, Americans can and should be proud that all of our elections for President in the history of our Republic have taken place on schedule. Not even the American Civil War delayed an election. The widening of the circle of empowerment to include men and women of all races is a successful struggle in which we all may take pride. It is interesting to look into our past as a nation to get a better sense of the present. I hope my readers enjoy this look into our past, provided with the help of You Tube

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