This 1964 Campaign Ad Is Eerily Relevant to Donald Trump

March 9th 2016

Kyle Jaeger

A political ad from 1964 recently reemerged online after viewers pointed out parallels to the 2016 presidential election, specifically as it applies to GOP front-runner Donald Trump.


The ad was produced by incumbent Lyndon B. Johnson's campaign, who was looking to court moderate republicans who were put off by Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater, who who was considered an extremist at the time.

In "Confessions of a Republican," a bespectacled man voices his opposition to Goldwater, and argues that conservatives should throw their support behind Johnson, who would go on to win the 1964 election. Fifty years later, the ad is going viral because the man's criticism of Goldwater sounds a lot like what both Democrats and Republicans are saying about Trump today.

He says that Goldwater represent a "very different type kind of a man," whose campaign rhetoric and policy proposals "scare" him.

And while some of his friends insist that Goldwater only "sounds a little irresponsible" during the campaign, but wouldn't act that way in the White House, he says "I don't buy that."

"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," he says.

Similarly, GOP figures such as former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney also voiced concerns about Trump's apparent appeal to white nationalists and hate groups, including a former head of the KKK, David Duke.

"I think my party made a bad mistake [at the San Francisco Republican convention]," the man continues, "and I'm going to have to vote against that mistake on the third of November."

On a number of levels, this ad reflects a parallel sentiment that has developed within the Republican party during this election season. Trump hasn't been declared the party's nominee, but his success in early primary states has troubled many Republicans who feel that Trump is either too extreme or inauthentic to serve as a viable candidate in the general election.

The presidential campaigns of Goldwater and Trump share several similar traits.

Like Trump after him, Goldwater ran an incendiary campaign.

He suggested the use nuclear weapons in Vietnam, which prompted the famous "Daisy" ad from Johnson's campaign.

Goldwater also appealed to Democrats in the Deep South in large part due to his opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (He previously supported the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and 1960 and reportedly opposed the 1964 act on ideological grounds, arguing that it represented federal overreach.)


Trump, meanwhile, has come under fire for his suggestion that the U.S. should "take out" the families of ISIS members in an effort to eliminate the terrorist threat. Like Goldwater, Trump had to walk back his comments, and the extreme rhetoric of these candidates both attracted a faction of conservatives that stood outside of the mainstream Republican party and repelled voters who favored "establishment" leaders.

"Also like Goldwater, Trump can win the nomination with the backing of a committed faction of activists animated by the fear that 'their' America is slipping away," Newsweek reports. "Illegal immigrants are taking American jobs and committing crimes of all kinds, including rape and murder, he says. Trump, like Goldwater, promises to rescue America through the restoration of law and order."

The differences between Goldwater and Trump.

Despite losing the 1964 election by a landslide, Goldwater is credited with launching the modern American conservative movement. In that respect, he's considered one of the "most consequential losers" in U.S. presidential history, as the Heritage Foundation put it. But while his campaign style might have shared certain qualities with Trump's, there are key differences between the candidates.

Trump's success thus far has led many to conclude that the appeal of a political "outsider" is a force to be reckoned with in the 2016 election. Unlike Trump, Goldwater was a practiced politician with decades of experience as a five-term Arizona senator. Goldwater had a particular focus on policy whereas Trump's campaign has been largely defined by bombast.

Still, the perception of Goldwater as a "very different type kind of a man" who frightens the Republican establishment seems to hold true with Trump today. It's no surprise why "Confessions of a Republican" is getting traction, once again.

Watch the full version of the 1964 ad, "Confessions of a Republican," below.


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