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Blog 3: Political Campaigns since Nixon

Youtube. Internet Articles. Twitter. Facebook Advertisements.

None of these words made since to the American public in 1968 when Richard Nixon and Herbert Humphrey were vying for the Office of President.  Flash forward to the 2008 election between Barack Obama and John McCain where these words were not only second nature for most voters but were methods that each candidate and the media used almost every day throughout the campaign.

While these methods used today were not even in existence in 1968, the television was. According to Joe McGinniss, “The content of the programs made little difference. Except for startling lapses, content seldom does. What mattered was the image the viewers received, though few observers at the time caught the point.”  During this time image is what sold and television is what sold it. The book written by McGinnis, The Selling of the President: The Classic Account of the Packaging of a Candidate, discussed the importance of television in the 1968 election. It gave voters easy accessibility to the candidates. Raymond Price, Nixon’s campaign speech writer wrote, “Voters are basically lazy, uninterested in making an effort to understand what we’re talking about.” This quote couldn’t be more true.

Here are some examples of campaign advertisements on tv for the 1968 election. Now fast forward. Since these black and white ads campaign teams have made it even easier for “lazy voters”, as Price called them, to access the image they are trying to get across of their candidate. Today’s version of the television is the Internet; and it has completely changed election campaigns with the use of online articles, Twitter, and Facebook to name a few.

Back in 1968 Nixon had a hard time making the decision to use television to revamp his image. According to McGinniss, he thought of using it as playing a game, an eastern liberal trick, and a gimmick. I would be curious to hear his thoughts on campaigning today. With the vast usage of numerous media forms today from phone applications, online articles, television, and print media voters have become consumed with the portrayed image of the candidate.

So what has changed since 1968? Nothing. While the media is more easily accessible to voters, the game is the same. Just as in 1968, today we are still obsessing over the image; the image created by campaign teams and the image controlled through these media forms. Think about it.

  1. March 1, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    Interesting. You don’t think that the social or viral nature of things like Facebook or YouTube offer anything new over what was experienced in 1968? Even if campaigns are still all about image, do the new technologies not in some way change the game?

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