Watch the Atlantic’s nice mash-up of six decades of presidential campaign ads, and it’s instantly clear—some things never change. The tenor and basic message of most of these ads is largely indistinguishable, even if the delivery has evolved and grown slicker.
There are really only three basic templates: ‘I rule’ ads, attack ads, and the ‘take-umbrage-at-attack-ads’ ads. Most are quite dull, and come draped in that same customary aura of disingenuousness that still induces eye-rolls today. It’s striking to me, in fact, just how similar the old and the new are. As I’ve been harping on for months, we’re in the midst of a record-breaking campaign season. Thanks to the rise of the Super PACs, there’s more money flowing into campaign coffers than ever before, and yet, there’s, like, zero innovation.
We get the same encouraging (or disavowing!) man-on-the-street testimonials, the same portraits of the presidents or p-hopefuls looking presidential, the same aphoristic sound bites, the same blocks of text floating across the screen.
There’s one exception. Can you spot it? Yeah, it’s the one where LBJ says that if you don’t vote for him, nuclear bombs will obliterate America.