Johnson v Goldwater -- The First Post-Kennedy Assassination Presidential Election
Notable 1960s political poster campaigning for the successful 1964 Johnson-Humphrey presidential ticket.
The poster features black and white photos of Johnson and Humphrey leaning out from an outline map of the contiguous United States. This gives way to a blue, white, and red pattern.
The 1964 U.S. Presidential election was a monumental event in American political history, not least because of its historic campaign slogans. In this year, President Lyndon B. Johnson, who had ascended to the presidency following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, faced off against Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona. The campaign slogans of these two candidates reflected the broader social, cultural, and political landscape of the mid-1960s and were instrumental in shaping the election's outcome.
Johnson, the Democratic nominee, launched his campaign with the slogan "All the Way with LBJ". This slogan was a masterstroke of political branding, as it was both catchy and impactful. The rhyme in the slogan made it easily memorable, and the phrase itself conveyed a sense of commitment and continuity. In the wake of Kennedy's assassination, many Americans were looking for stability and continuity, and this slogan perfectly encapsulated those desires. Moreover, the slogan's emphasis on 'going all the way' implicitly suggested that Johnson was determined to complete Kennedy's unfinished work, thus associating Johnson with the popular fallen president.
On the other hand, Goldwater, the Republican nominee, ran under the slogan "In Your Heart, You Know He's Right". This slogan was designed to appeal to conservative voters who felt that the country was veering too far to the left under Democratic leadership. The phrase played on voters' possible doubts about the direction of the country, suggesting that their instincts would guide them to the 'right' choice—namely, Goldwater. However, this slogan, while capturing the heart of conservative ideology, also provided an opportunity for Johnson's campaign to counterattack. They responded with the slogan "In Your Guts, You Know He's Nuts", turning Goldwater's slogan against him and framing him as an extremist.
The stark contrast between Johnson's and Goldwater's slogans mirrored the larger ideological divide in the country. Johnson's slogan sought to project an image of stability, continuity, and commitment, while Goldwater's slogan tapped into a sense of unease among conservative voters about the nation's direction.
Ultimately, the 1964 Presidential election resulted in a landslide victory, with Johnson winning 61.1% of the popular vote, the largest share since the popular vote became the standard. Meanwhile, Goldwater's slogan, despite its failure to secure him the presidency, galvanized a conservative base that would influence American politics for decades to come.