The election of 1964 pitted incumbent Democrat Lyndon Johnson against Republican Barry Goldwater, who ran on a deeply conservative small-government, low-tax, anti-Communism platform. Johnson, by contrast, leaned heavily on the Kennedy legacy, the recent passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and his Great Society anti-poverty program.
This handbill was issued by Goldwater’s Minnesota campaign organization, some time after his nomination at a contentious Republican convention. There is much here to read, but the argument boils down to the already-old assertion that Democrats were at best soft on Communism and at worst sympathetic to it. Further, having held the Presidency for 16 of the past 24 years, their weakness was responsible for the “loss” of dozens of countries in Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, Africa and elsewhere, while many more hung in the balance. The conclusion, inevitably, is that the stakes of the election were existential: a vote for Johnson was a vote for dictatorship and enslavement, while a vote for Goldwater was a vote for freedom and prosperity.
“The Democrats have been in power twice as long as the Republicans [since 1940]; but the Democrats have lost 10 times as many countries and 50 times as many people as the Republicans! …. HOW MUCH CAN WE LOSE BEFORE WE HAVE LOST?”
“… the Democratic solution to every financial problem, real or imagined, has always been MORE SOCIALISM!”
“This campaign will not only be between candidates and parties; it will be a contest to decide whether we withstand Communism or surrender to it. Sometime, some place, we must make a stand or doom ourselves, our children and our country to an ETERNITY OF SLAVERY.”
The argument is reinforced by a an outline map of the world, using different shadings of red (of course!) to indicate Communist countries, those sympathetic to Communism, and those where the “contest” was “in doubt”. Lest anyone miss the point, just off the West Coast of the United States is the message, also in bright red, “IT CAN HAPPEN HERE”, while a quote attributed to Krushchev asserts that “Americans must defeat Goldwater”.
The facile argument and finger-pointing did Goldwater little good. The Republican Party fractured along conservative-moderate fault lines, the Democrats succeeded in painting him him as an extremist, and Johnson won in a landslide with 61% of the popular vote and 486 of 538 electoral votes. Taking the long view, though, Goldwater may have had the last laugh: He won the five states of the Deep South, breaking a nearly century-long Democratic chokehold on the region’s politics, and his message presaged the rightward turn of the Republic Party, the tenor of Reagan’s two-term Presidency, and of course the Tea Party movement.
A fascinating and vivid relic of presidential politics during the Cold War, with no other examples recorded in the usual sources.
Not in OCLC or Persuasive Maps: The PJ Mode Collection.