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      Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – October 17, 2021   Strategic Political Economy “You lost. Stop acting like you won” [White Hot Harlots (lyman alpha blob), via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-14-21] “The abortion issue has been lost. I cannot fathom any plausible near or medium-term scenario in which the actually existing American left mounts a successfu […]
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Fitness month: the saga continues

I’m about half way through today. Gotta burn off that lamb vindaloo and chicken saag I had last weekend.

My goal is to be able to run thru Jessica by the Allman Brothers. I’ll get there.

I’m listening to ZZ Top today-:

The “Daisy Ad,” and Why We Need to Do More of Them Now

I wrote about how there is so much at stake in the upcoming elections, that Democrats must cease their efforts to be the nice people, and to not upset anyone; and should do virtually everything they can to win. There is some limit to that, but I would not worry that the Democrats would ever cross it. So they must add to their playbook which essentially focuses on appeals to decency and equality. Those are important things, but they really don’t win many votes from people who wouldn’t vote for Democrats, anyway.

One additional technique which they don’t like to use, but which Republicans love to employ, is fear. No decent person wants to scare people, but as we always hear, politics in this country is a zero-sum game. So convincing voters that the Republicans are a nightmare for the country, is very useful, and it happens to be true. I don’t know in depth about what specific ads are run on various local broadcast media, except when seeing something on the internet, because in California the Democrats win by so many votes, that the DNC, DSCC, DCCC rarely run national ads here. I’ve seen a few good ads actually done by the Lincoln Project, probably because they are Republicans, and know how to do these things. But I don’t think that they have the money to run in many markets, and most are only internet ads.

As I was thinking about this, I recalled perhaps the most powerful, frightening, and controversial political television ad in history. It is called “The Daisy Ad.” For those of you who do not remember 1964, we had Lyndon Johnson as President, taking over after the unthinkable assassination of President Kennedy. He handled this dreadful period well, and had attained a good measure of popularity. The Republican candidate in 1964 was Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, whose forces, now eerily reminiscent of what we are seeing in this era, stormed over the Republican moderates, whose candidate was Governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York.

In the 1964 Republican convention, held in San Francisco, the Goldwater people, who basically hated the media, had NBC’s John Chancellor arrested for not giving up his spot on the floor to the “Goldwater Girls,” who were Dallas Cowboy cheerleader types, who were going to do a dance in support of Goldwater. The scene I remember was of near-chaos, with screaming and pushing, and Chancellor being taken off the floor. I do not recall the upshot, but I read that Chancellor got bad publicity for this, from the Far Right, of course, and he resigned his position with NBC, but came back six years later to anchor the nightly news for them.

1964 was the period where the Far Right, John Birch Society ran with the kind of conspiracy theories which prefigured QAnon. Fluoridated water was a Communist plot. “Operation Water Moccasin” planned to have Communist forces invade California, by going up through Mexico. American schools were filled with Communists, the threat was everywhere. And Goldwater, who really was not an insane person, and who in his later years supported keeping Social Security and Medicare; and who told people how scary and impervious to facts the fanatic religious wing which supported him, was, did have one very frightening aspect. He believed in the use of all-out force to win wars which America fought.

As to whether he would have used nuclear weapons in Vietnam or any other hot spot on the globe; and there were so many then, because American foreign policy under Dulles and then Rusk, was hawkish at the least, Goldwater was more willing than any elected official to consider such things. Many think that he would have used a nuclear weapon on Vietnam, but fortunately no one can be sure. At the time, there was a great deal of fear that Goldwater, and the insane generals like Curtis Lemay who supported him, would have gone that far.

It seemed very likely that Johnson would win, but nothing is certain, and margins and Congressional majorities matter. On September 7, 1964, on NBC, during the television showing of the movie “David and Bathsheba,” the “Daisy Ad” was shown. A little girl of three is shown picking petals in a field of flowers. She is counting the petals, trying to remember all the numbers. She gets to nine, and then you hear the announcer say, “ten,” and there is a nuclear explosion, and all is annihilated, with a mushroom cloud rising in the sky.

President Johnson’s voice is heard saying, “These are the stakes. To make a world in which all God’s children can live, or go into the dark.”

There is another voiceover, saying, “Vote for President Johnson on November 3. The stakes are too high for you to stay home.”

Republicans complained bitterly about this powerful, shocking, and horrifying political ad. The ad was only shown the one time, probably because of the controversy, but most people learned about it. No one can be certain, because the polling was not as focused then, but it is very likely that it had a significant effect on the vote outcome, where Johnson won 61.1% of the vote, to Goldwater’s 38.5%, and won 482 electoral votes to 56 for Goldwater. Johnson won all but six states, Arizona and five Deep South states.

Additionally, Democrats routed Republicans in downticket races, winning 37 additional House seats, to give them a 295-140 majority; and adding two senate seats, to give them 68 altogether. Of course, that was when the South was still largely Democratic. So Democrats had a two-thirds majority in each house of Congress. This allowed them to overcome any filibusters., and to pass Medicare, one of the most important social programs in American history, in 1965. And had it not been for the Vietnam War, and Johnson’s refusal to consider de-escalating it, the Democrats would probably have been able to pass even more momentous legislation, and likely kept the presidency in 1968 and maybe beyond that. That is another, and tragic story, but the overwhelming victory in 1964 was the high point for them in the last 80 years, following the immense victory of FDR over Landon in 1936.

Would Johnson have won without the “Daisy Ad”? Almost certainly, but running against Goldwater’s militaristic and extremist tendencies was a big factor. And the ad emphasized it in a powerful and shocking way, taking it far beyond rhetoric or speeches. Should the Democrats have run that ad? I think that it was both legitimate and worthwhile. Certainly it vividly portrayed the worst fears of the human race; and the election was about that, as much as any issue.

Democrats do not do this now. They could run ads showing what will happen to the planet if the Republicans get elected, and stop every bit of climate legislation. I don’t think that most people understand this. Most realize that climate change is a major problem, but they don’t seem to connect that to the fact that only Democrats try to do anything about it; and that Republicans are so beholden to fossil fuel companies, that they actually block any legislation which might do something to arrest the slide into a world which will be uninhabitable.

Democrats do not run ads about air pollution, either. They don’t run ads showing the carnage of the unbearable gun violence, and that Republicans stop every part of any reasonable gun safety bill (I like the term “gun control,” but that apparently has become too controversial a term, which is awful in itself). Can we just go on with this any longer, where we make impassioned speeches, but Republicans know that they have the electoral power to keep things exactly as they are, which of course means worse and worse, each year? We cannot, so we have to increase our efforts and tactics, and turn our desperation into powerful messages and images.

Running ads of the same intensity as the “Daisy Ad,”all over the country, is paramount. People have to realize the consequences of electing Republicans. I really do not think that they do. Polls show vast support for some gun control, and to deal with climate change, but people keep electing Republicans who are dedicated to doing everything they can to block all of it. And then people get more upset, and somehow they blame both sides, or even just Democrats, for it. At least go out there and show some pictures, do some dramatic and emotional ads, which will perhaps frighten and upset people enough to vote Democrats in.

As it is, it seems like most of the scare tactics are used in Republican ads. Trump ran some ads in 2016 showing their version of a horrible dystopia which somehow Hillary’s election would cause; compared to the happy America under Trump control. That was ludicrous, but it is out of the propaganda playbook, and some undoubtedly were swayed by it. What is our counterpoint to that? We need to play a similar game, even if we want to continue with nice but rather insipid hope and change ads that are our trademark.

I really don’t care how we win; whether we inspire people, or scare them, or ideally both. There is plenty out there to scare us, who understand the issues in depth, and the effect of electing Republicans instead of Democrats. Most people don’t share that fear, but they should. And again, if we lose, after doing everything we can to warn people what will happen, at least we would know that we went all-out to save the country, and portrayed the contrasts between the parties in the most intense, visual, and indelible way. So run the most powerful and vote-changing ads possible. No one would condemn you for it, except the other side, the totalitarian, inhuman fascists, and then of course the various media outlets which they use to try to maintain total control over our lives and perceptions.