Perspective: A Little Girl And A Daisy

Mar 12, 2020

We first see a little girl counting as she plucks the petals from a daisy. A countdown starts -- and then a mushroom cloud fills the screen. This was an ad for Democratic presidential candidate Lyndon Johnson when he was running against arch-conservative Republican Barry Goldwater. The year was 1964 and we had witnessed the birth of the modern political ad. 

 


Amazingly, the ad ran only one time and it didn’t mention Goldwater’s name. It didn’t need to. Goldwater had made a number of statements saying he was willing to use nuclear weapons. Even many Republicans were terrified. 

 

Johnson was reelected in a landslide that year. Many political scientists think that Johnson would have won the election without the Daisy ad, but there can be no doubt that it created lasting ripples in the world of political advertising. It showed that you can sell a candidate by playing on voters’ emotions. 

 

But there’s a big difference between exploiting a justifiable fear that a candidate is going to start a nuclear war and lying to scare people. Trump has told more than 16,000 lies since he became president. His Fox echo-chamber and Republican minions repeat the lies. Angry people get angrier; scared ones more afraid. 

 

In 1964, the truth about Goldwater, told in a vivid, scary way, was effective and fair. Nowadays, the truth seems beside the point, when fueling fear with lies works so much better. 

 

I’m Deborah Booth and that’s my perspective.