In 1964, the GOP nominated a man associated with the extremist fringe of his party’s coalition, a candidate who sometimes lacked message discipline and spoke cavalierly about deploying nuclear weapons. Lyndon Johnson’s campaign capitalized on the perception of the GOP nominee’s extremism and irresponsibility by allowing lifelong Republican Bill Bogert to detail his reasons for betraying his party on Election Day, in an ad titled “Confessions of a Republican.”
In 2016, Hillary Clinton has done the exact same thing.
On the eve of the GOP convention in Cleveland, Clinton debuted a new ad, in which a much older Bogert explains why he will not be voting for Donald Trump this November.
“This man scares me,” Bogert says, in both ads. “A friend of mine said to me, ‘Listen, just because a man sounds irresponsible during a campaign doesn’t mean he’s going to act that way.’ Well, I don’t buy that … I’ve thought about just not voting, but you can’t do that. That’s saying you don’t care who wins, and I do care. I think the party is about to make a terrible mistake … and I’m going to have to vote against that mistake in November.”
Johnson trounced Goldwater that fall. But over the ensuing decades, the movement Goldwater led took over the Republican Party, and then the American government. Which illustrates the limits of such analogies. Or so Democrats must hope.