The most interesting character in the inter-generational Goldwater masturbation “Mr. Conservative” that is pulsing through HBO currently is none other than Lyndon Baines Johnson. Although the film tries to make ol’ Plain Spoken Barry appear sympathetic as the LBJ campaign machine twists his blunt words, it is impossible not to see the reality of the pugnacious and idealistic LBJ lunging accurately for Goldwater’s exposed jugular.
In one commercial the LBJ Team takes Goldwater’s assertion that America would be better off if the eastern seaboard were sawed off of it literally. The commercial repeats Glodywater’s assertion and shows a wooden map of America floating in a pool. The eastern seaboard is sawed off and floats away. The commercial asks: how can a man who makes these assertions lead the whole country?
In another spot Goldwater voicing his rationale for voting against the 1964 Civil Rights Act is played over footage of a Klan rally. The commercial once again asks how a man who supports racist policies can lead the whole country.
Then there is the notorious girl-with-daisy-nuke commercial. Here LBJ’s attack is more instinctual. “Mr. Conservative” displays footage of ol’ Tell-It-Like-It-Is Barry holding forth on how America needs to get used to the idea of mixing nuclear weapons that can destroy entire cities into its regular military arsenal. The detachment of his delivery is off-putting, but the glint of glee in his eyes as he talks about nuclear holocaust is truly creepy. LBJ’s slogan on Goldwater was “In Your Guts You Know He’s Nuts.” This assertion and the daisy commercial would not have worked if Goldwater’s own words, behavior and vibe were not so weird and discomforting.
LBJ’s idealism is heart breaking to behold today. His speechifying for a Great Society where every child is educated, the elderly are cared for and racism and division are eradicated is a profound contrast to Goldwater’s crabby faux individualism. His negative ads were not Rovian fnords, but harsh honest broadsides against the words and actions of his opponent that encouraged dividing Americans by region and color.
Today’s Dems lack the pugnacious idealism of LBJ. That is why they lose. If LBJ, or his team, were running against Generalissimo Bush in 2004 they would have had thirty-second commercials of Bush sitting in a classroom reading My Pet Goat. A clock marked “time elapsed since Bush learned that America is under attack by terrorists” would have ticked upwards and all of America would have been treated to the agonizing seconds of Bush just siting there like a stunned bird that just flew into a glass window. The words “President Bush?” would have appeared on the screen as the commercial ended.
If LBJ’s team were directing the 2006 mid-term election, across the country Barbara Bush’s bourgeois dismissal of the Katrina refugees as being fortunate to leave their New Orleans squalor for “homes” elsewhere would be played over footage of the evacuees’ struggle.
The Dems don’t need a Great Society policy suite. They need to be profoundly in favor of national unity and to have the guts to unmask the clever divisiveness and “racism lite” of the Conservatrons. LBJ did.