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Bombs Away: LBJ, Goldwater and the 1964 Campaign that Changed It All

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Published on Oct 29, 2014

Three year old Monique Corzilius counts to ten, pulling petals off of a daisy. A voice from mission control then counts down as the camera zooms into Monique's dark pupil. An atomic blast and ensuing mushroom cloud consumes the TV screen as President Lyndon Johnson's voice proclaim's "We must either love each other, or we must die." This political ad, "Peace Little Girl," aired only once or twice during the 1964 presidential campaign between Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater, but ushered in a new era of the television attack ad.

The 1964 campaign also reshaped the American political landscape in other significant ways.

Johnson's Great Society and civil rights agendas pushed southern states toward the Republican party and brought the northeast in line with the Democrats, creating America's contemporary geopolitical map.

Barry Goldwater's rift with "the liberal republican establishment," or "Rockefeller Republicans," was the basis for his landslide defeat in the general election, but also for the rise of an out-spoken and blossoming conservative movement. Barry Goldwater's presidential campaign spawned the political career of Ronald Reagan, and inspired future conservative offshoots like Social and Christian conservatives as well as the Tea Party, all who claim to be "Goldwater Conservatives."

The 1964 campaign defined arguments of big versus small government. 1964 structured our modern delineation of red and blue states. 1964 confirmed that an anti-establishment insurgency can lay claim to a political party and steer it in other directions. 1964 gave us a legacy of Great Society social programs and 1964 taught us that you can define an opponent with a sixty second TV attack ad.

Fifty years later, the 1964 campaign still dominates America's politics and presidential campaigns.

Bombs Away includes interviews with historians and participants in the 1964 campaign; Richard and Doris Kearns Goodwin, Barry Goldwater, Jr., Victor Gold, Joseph Califano, Larry J. Sabato, Professor Robert Mann, and Monique Corzilius.

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