“Confessions of a Republican,” a four-minute television ad from the 1964 US presidential election, has been making a comeback online.
In it, a self-described Republican voter vents discomfort with his party’s choice of nominee, senator Barry Goldwater. “This man scares me,” he says, lamenting the “weird groups” like the Ku Klux Klan who have come out in favor of him. By the end of the ad, he’s dispensed with the idea of party unity—“if you unite behind a man you don’t believe in, it’s a lie”—and resolved to vote for president Lyndon Johnson instead.
The man is an actor, hired by the LBJ campaign. But the ad touched a nerve in 1964, when Goldwater became the first presidential nominee from the nascent conservative movement. The country was wary of extremism, still on edge from John F. Kennedy’s assassination less than a year earlier, and the Johnson campaign found great success in painting Goldwater as a far-right fanatic.
The Johnson campaign also ran a famous ad called “Daisy,” which showed a little girl plucking flower petals and then a giant nuclear mushroom cloud.
“These are the stakes,” Johnson says in a voiceover. “We must either love each other or we must die.” He won in the biggest presidential landslide since 1820.
This year, some Republicans may find themselves faced with a similar dilemma in Donald Trump.
“We’re up against a very different kind of a man. This man scares me,” says the man in the LBJ ad. A lot of US voters—Republicans and Democrats alike—can relate.