Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few years, you have heard of the hit TV drama Mad Men.
Set in the late 1950s to early 1960s, Mad Men is AMC’s award-winning, mini-series about a fictional group of Madison Avenue advertising executives. It features superb script-writing and acting, as well as impeccable period costumes and scenery. In addition, Mad Men gives us glimpses of office life before equal rights for people of color, women, or the disabled… and a sense of history.
By season 4, it’s 1964 in the world of Mad Men. 1964 is the year a newly sworn-in President Lyndon B. Johnson took Republican challenger and Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater and the entire Republican Party to the cleaners. In a landslide victory (61% of the popular vote), Johnson won every state except Arizona.
Television commercials played an important role in the 1964 election, and the extra features on the Mad Men Season 4, Disc 3 include a round-up of speeches and commercials by both the Johnson and Goldwater during their presidential campaigns. (OK, only a political media nerd would watch a show totally comprised of old campaign speeches and commercials… twice… but the footage was fascinating.)
What struck me as most amazing was the complete consistency in the Republican Party’s messaging from 1964 through to the current presidential campaign.
A little background, in the summer of 1964 Congress passed and Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – do you believe it: during a campaign year, they worked?– and language which would create other social safety net programs (including, Medicare and Medicaid) was being crafted.
Small government Goldwater took on Johnson who was in the process of creating War on Poverty and related programs: Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment insurance, Head Start and other social programs that current Republicans are still fighting against.
Check out these Goldwater commercials to view the Republican Party’s age-old message.
Goldwater on small government
Goldwater on morality
And here are a few familiar Democratic Party messages. Obviously, the Democratic Party’s messaging has changed, as evidence in the War on Poverty commercial. No one– not even our Black president– would run a commercial like that today. Heavy sigh…
Johnson’s ‘Goldwater is scary dangerous’ ad [paraphrasing, of course]
Johnson’s War on Poverty (I wish Obama would run an ad like this.)
Also, on the same DVD is Johnson’s January 1965 inaugural speech. Today’s media critics would chastise Johnson for his halting delivery, but the words are inspirational. I particularly like it when he says as a country we need justice, liberty, and union to survive. Think about that statement. Do we have those things today?