"An unappreciative audience", Omaha [NB] “Daily Bee”, 7/14/1914 [p.1]. William Jennings Bryan, then-Secretary of State, is depicted as standing on an enormous bag of money marked as aid for Latin America. “We can afford to be generous”, he says, while an American “wage worker”, his wife and child, and a child laborer look on. The woman is labeled “ice less” because she is too poor to afford ice. In the summer, the heat was considered a health issue, particularly for children.
You probably guessed: they didn’t win. In fact, their 590k votes was hundreds of thousands shy of Socialist Party candidate Eugene Debs' nearly one million votes in 1912 and again in 1920 (that last one from prison). Benson split with the party a few years later over its opposition to American involvement in World War I.
"Choice:" a 28-minute hand-wringing sermon on morality, brought to you by Barry Goldwater (but not really)
In 1964, political strategist Clif White helped secure the GOP nomination for Barry Goldwater, but he was dropped when it came time to assemble Goldwater’s campaign team. So, in what Daniel McCarthy at The American Conservative described as a “consolation prize,” White was granted permission to make a campaign film around the issue of morality in America, to be aired on television.
And it is awesome. There’s lots of dancing (gasp!), driving fast, even littering. And of course sex sex sex. All contrasted with AmericanTM shots of the Statue of Liberty, the Constitution and recreations of Valley Forge. And if you guessed that “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” is playing in the background, well my friend you would not be wrong. Self-righteous and way, way over-the-top, it was designed to show that the re-election of LBJ (the “Choice”) would hasten our already perilous decline, in a handcart to hell kind of way.
Jesse Walker, in Reason, recalls a passage from Mostly on the Edge, a memoir by Goldwater’s speechwriter Karl Hess, that explains what happened when this masterpiece was screened for Goldwater and the team:
Before a word could be said, the senator turned to my son — then sixteen years old — and asked his opinion. Young Karl said the ad was silly, had nothing to do with the ideas of the campaign, and was dirty politics to boot. Goldwater agreed. That was it; the ad was pulled, and the campaign stuck to the high ground of principles and substantive issues.
Goldwater’s decision to shelve it went beyond the lurid imagery and heavy-handed moral absolutism. The many depictions of young rioters was perhaps even more troubling. McCarthy cites Bill Middendorf’s (another campaign official) memoir A Glorious Disaster:
"It can’t be used." Period. The next day, he elaborated. "It’s nothing but a racist film." Choice gave equal time to black and white miscreants, but blacks were in the more violent shots.
At any rate, it’s a half hour well worth your time. Also, at around the 11:30 mark, you see footage about the “Baker case” - this is what that’s about.
edit: the_60s_at_50 on Twitter found a great New York Times article from 1996 about the film: "The First Days of the Loaded Political Image"
* Barry Goldwater vs. the Swinging ’60s: The ‘Choice’ Film / The American Conservative
* The Wild Campaign Film That Barry Goldwater Disowned / Reason
* Video via YouTube
Speeches were Adlai Ewing Stevenson II’s greatest strength, but they were also his greatest weakness. During the 1950s, when the televised image assumed an increasingly important role in winning and losing elections, Stevenson failed to transcend the image of a speaker. Although eloquent to be sure, he seemed abstracted and detached—an observer rather than a leader. In his 1952 presidential campaign, that image—together with speeches filled with reason, wit, and grace—won the plaudits of many intellectuals. On the other hand, his speeches often confused or bored many other Americans."Adlai Stevenson, Television, and the Presidential Campaign of 1956," Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, Volume 89, Spring 1996 via the Illinois State Library [PDF]
Stevenson’s opponent, Dwight David Eisenhower, more practically strove for communication, rather than eloquence. Where Stevenson appeared to make a fetish of reason, Eisenhower recognized that effective communication depended more on stimulating a sense of shared emotion. His highly effective spot advertisements on television identified with the needs and yearnings of ordinary voters.
Eisenhower’s victory, due in part to a sophisticated use of television, taught many Democrats that political success in the future would depend on mastering the arcane techniques of the new medium.
Read more …
President Kennedy was known for being a fast and voracious reader.
As Mrs. Kennedy once said, “He’d read walking, he’d read at the table, at meals, he’d read after dinner, he’d read in the bathtub…He really read all the times you don’t think you have time to read.”
In fact, JFK could read 1,200 words per minute. Check out this letter from JFK’s press secretary, Pierre Salinger, discussing JFK’s talent.
-from the JFK Library
The bandwagon really needs to make a comeback. Let’s make it happen!
I read about FDR's relations with Hoover and Wilkie thanks to you, but what where his views on Landon and Dewey?
Alf Landon is either completely forgotten or used as a punchline because FDR destroyed him by an ungodly margin in the 1936 election, but Landon, who was Governor of Kansas, was a highly-respected leader by politicians on both sides of the aisle. FDR liked him and even offered Landon a spot in his Cabinet later in his Presidency. Landon liked FDR, too, supported him on numerous issues (including a lot of the New Deal) and really wasn’t that distant from Roosevelt ideologically. Unfortunately for Landon, he faced FDR in 1936 when Roosevelt was really at the top of his game, as popular as he would be during his 12-year-long Presidency, and also as healthy as he would be during his Presidency.
All of that turned FDR into a steamroller and poor Governor Landon just happened to be the opposition. It must not have eaten at Landon too much because he lived until 1987. That’s right — the second person to run against Franklin Delano Roosevelt didn’t pass away until 1987 when he was 100 years old.
The campaign between FDR and Thomas E. Dewey in 1944 was significantly different because it took place in the midst of World War II and because FDR was obviously dying. In 1944, FDR didn’t quite have the energy that he used to have on the campaign trail. Dewey, on the other hand, was only 42 years old and had all of the energy in the world. Instead of hammering Roosevelt’s policies, Dewey took a ton of shots at FDR’s fitness for continuing as President when his health was failing and his physical appearance was deteriorating frighteningly. Roosevelt didn’t know Dewey as well as he had known Hoover (a former friend), Landon (whom FDR respected and liked personally), or Willkie, who ended up being close to Roosevelt and serve as a special envoy to war-torn Europe. FDR’s campaign focused on what Roosevelt had accomplished and how close the Allies were to bringing World War II to an end. Roosevelt really didn’t run against Dewey in 1944, he ran (as much as FDR could run — get it? because he was crippled — too soon?) on his own record and on the always-effective argument that you don’t swap horses in the middle of the stream, particularly when that stream is the deadliest and most horrific war in the history of the world.
Incidentally, the best quote about Thomas E. Dewey during the 1944 campaign came from a Roosevelt, but not from Franklin. FDR’s cousin and Theodore Roosevelt’s oldest daughter, the acid-tongued Alice Roosevelt Longworth — described Dewey as the little groom figurine on the top of a wedding cake because his mustache made him look like that was exactly where he belonged.
Of course, the worries that Governor Dewey expressed throughout the 1944 campaign about FDR’s fitness to remain in the White House and the President’s failing health were completely accurate. Five months after Roosevelt defeated Dewey, FDR was dead. Dewey was nominated once again by the GOP four years later, in 1948, against FDR’s successor, Harry S. Truman. And as even casual readers of history know, some newspaper editors jumped the gun with the morning edition that was being published for the day after Election Day because Dewey did not defeat Truman.