For something produced over 50 years ago to “go viral” today seems a little strange.
But that’s exactly the case for one political ad from the 1964, which has seen a resurgence online after people began noticing the almost eerie parallels between the ad’s target, and Republican front runner Donald Trump.
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Titled Confessions of a Republican, the ad is a black-and-white, single-camera shot without background music or cuts of any kind, featuring a man talking into the camera lens while smoking a cigarette – meaning it’s as much a relic of 1960’s television as you’re likely to find.
The premise is simple: a Republican voter is “confessing” his concern for his party’s nominee for President.
“I’ve always been a Republican,” the man begins. “My father is, his father was, the whole family is a Republican family.”
But quickly, the confession begins: the unknown man admits the party’s current nominee “scares” him. He “seems to be against just about everything.”
“When I read some of these things he says… I get a little worried,” the man admits.
Of course, the candidate in question isn’t Donald Trump – it’s Senator Barry Goldwater, the Republican nominee for President in the 1964 general election.
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Like Trump, Goldwater was seen as a bold candidate who was unafraid to speak his mind on the issues. Also like Trump, some of Goldwater’s ultra-Conservative positions and inflammatory statements worried left-leaning Republicans and moderate voters.
This allowed his political opponents – namely President Lyndon B. Johnson, the incumbent in the 1964 election – to paint him as a dangerous reactionary.
Such is the case here: Confessions of a Republican was an attack ad put out by the Johnson campaign. And yes, the man giving the “confession” is actor Bill Bogert. It was a requirement when casting the ad that the actor actually be a Republican.
As the advertisement goes on, the parallels to the modern-day Trump campaign become even starker.
“A reporter will go to Senator Goldwater and he’ll say, ‘Senator, on such and such a day, you said, and I quote, blah blah blah whatever it is, end quote,’” Bogert says. “And then Goldwater says, ‘Well, I wouldn’t put it that way.’ I can’t follow that.”
“Was he serious when he did put it that way? Is he serious when he says I wouldn’t put it that way? I just don’t get it.”
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Then Bogert makes a statement that could have been pulled right from the headlines in 2016.
“I [don’t worry] so much about party unity because if you unite behind a man you don’t believe in, it’s a lie,” Bogert says. “I tell you, those people who got control of [the Republican] convention: Who are they?”
“I mean, when the head of the Ku Klux Klan, when all these weird groups come out in favor of the candidate of my party — either they’re not Republicans or I’m not.”
Of course, former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke endorsement of Trump’s campaign made waves around the world, especially when Trump initially didn’t denounce him.
“Well, just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke. OK?” Trump said at the time. “I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists.”
Trump would eventually denounce the KKK leader in later statements.
The Johnson/Goldwater campaign is viewed as an important moment in US Presidential politics. Thanks to political ads like this and the infamous “Daisy” commercial, Johnson soundly defeated Goldwater in the 1964 election.
However, the election signaled a shift in US presidential politics: Johnson became the first Democrat to win in Maine, and Vermont, while Goldwater became the first Republican to win Georgia, signaling the start a geo-political shift in where the two parties would draw their support in the coming decades.
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The election also signaled a shift within the ranks of the Republican Party, with many longtime Republicans losing their seats. This had the effect of “clearing the way” for a new breed of Republican politicians to bring about the “Reagan Revolution” of the 1980’s, and the birth of the modern American Conservative ideology based on religious values, low taxes, and an aggressive foreign policy.
And there’s one more interesting tidbit from the 1964 campaign: it represented the first foray into politics, on the side of Barry Goldwater, of a young girl named Hillary Rodham.
“I was also an active Young Republican and, later, a Goldwater girl, right down to my cowgirl outfit and straw cowboy hat,” Hillary Rodham, now Hillary Clinton, wrote in her autobiography Living History. “I liked Senator Goldwater because he was a rugged individualist who swam against the political tide.”
Remind you of anyone?
Meanwhile, following more gains in Tuesday’s primaries, Donald Trump has begun to present himself as the inevitable Republican presidential nominee, warning that if party leaders try to deny him the nomination at a contested convention when he is leading the delegate count, “You’d have riots.”
The brash billionaire, who won at least three more states Tuesday but doesn’t yet have the needed majority of delegates to secure the nomination, predicted he’d collect enough support to win the nomination outright before the Republican convention this summer.
-With files from the Associated Press