"Now, There Are Two Americas"
June 1, 2013 6:44 AM   Subscribe

In 1964, Goldwater campaign strategist Clif White made a 28-minute long film called "Choice." Once Senator Goldwater saw it, it was never shown publicly. Now it's on YouTube!

Reason: The Wild Campaign Film That Barry Goldwater Disowned
If nothing else, watch the first minute and 40 seconds, which have a great early-'60s exploitation-flick vibe. And check out the minute-long montage that starts around 11:55 -- whatever else went into making this half hour of agitprop, the filmmakers clearly were having a blast.
The American Conservative: Barry Goldwater vs. the Swinging ’60s: The ‘Choice’ Film
I’d heard a lot about “Choice,” the campaign film Clif White instigated for Goldwater in 1964 but that the candidate ultimately vetoed. Until it appeared on YouTube, however, I hadn’t seen the program in full. It’s a doozy: fast cars, fast women, John Wayne. And more problematically, scenes of riots and civil rights protests portrayed in a way that led Goldwater to call it “a racist film” and demand that “Choice” not be shown on his behalf.
posted by the man of twists and turns (44 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
 
The film was produced under the aegis of Mothers for Moral America.

Looks like I hit "post" too soon.

CONELRAD ADJACENT is a blog that focuses on "ATOMIC SECRETS, MISSING PERSONS AND GENERAL COLD WAR STRANGENESS FROM THE OBSESSIVES NEXT DOOR"

CHOICE (1964): The Scrapbook
On April 8, 2008, Raymond R. Morgan, Jr., the executive producer of the 1964 Barry Goldwater campaign film, Choice, granted an exclusive interview to CONELRAD about the movie at his home in Southern California.

After our lengthy discussion of all-things-Choice wound down, Morgan unexpectedly gave us his professionally bound scrapbook in which he kept press clippings and other ephemera related to the controversial film.
Pre-CHOICE (1964): The Billboard Prank

CHOICE (1964): The Screenplay
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:55 AM on June 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's some wicked music at the beginning.
posted by drezdn at 7:12 AM on June 1, 2013


I like the idea that Goldwater sat through that.
posted by mazola at 7:13 AM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


And more problematically, scenes of riots and civil rights protests portrayed in a way that led Goldwater to call it “a racist film” and demand that “Choice” not be shown on his behalf.

the opening montage is brilliant in a Leni Reifenstahl meets Russ Meyer sort of way. dancing is a form of black sexual degeneracy which is the same as protesting for civil rights: are you doing the watusi or being beaten with police batons? but I couldn't make it through the "Birth of a Nation" segment following... you can see why the American conservative movement needed someone like Reagan, who could go to Mississippi and dog-whistle to the klan for all he was worth.
posted by ennui.bz at 7:17 AM on June 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


What's really sad is that, with better production values and a hip-hop soundtrack, this thing would fit right in on Fox News, "birth of a nation" segment and all.
posted by PlusDistance at 7:27 AM on June 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Nah, that's not sad. Sad is knowing "In your heart, you know he's right" still has clout.
posted by de at 7:31 AM on June 1, 2013


(CONELRAD is great! They do historical/political propaganda really well; several years ago I posted their piece on the controversial video the DNC made to oppose Sen. Goldwater, DAISY.)
posted by carsonb at 7:31 AM on June 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wow, I didn't know Ed Wood made campaign films.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:35 AM on June 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


The production values are horrendous. Shows how far campaign budgets have come.

It interests me that this was considered too raw for the public then. It's obviously an instructional document for campaign media makers today.
posted by Miko at 7:41 AM on June 1, 2013


Nice to know that the Republicans were always hating on the moderates. "Goldwater won't let us frighten the public into voting for us? He wants to talk policy? Fuck 'im." They'd rather lose than win with the wrong guy.
posted by gjc at 7:44 AM on June 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


I like how during the "Birth of a Nation" sequence there's the emphasis on "freedom... for all races!" followed by the sole appearance of black people during that montage, baling cotton. See? Freedom for all!
posted by XMLicious at 7:47 AM on June 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


"In your guts, you know he's nuts."
"In your heart, you know he might." (that is he might use nuclear weapons)

1964 LBJ campaign counter-sloganeering.
posted by vozworth at 7:50 AM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Notice how "...under God..." is missing from the Pledge of Allegiance in the beginning of the "Good America" segment, which dates that clip to pre-1954.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:01 AM on June 1, 2013 [10 favorites]


...scenes of riots and civil rights protests portrayed in a way that led Goldwater to call it “a racist film” and demand that “Choice” not be shown on his behalf.

Of course, nowadays, some SuperPAC would just go and show it anyway.
posted by maxim0512 at 8:52 AM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sounding like "No, says the man in the Government..." ~10:50

Them uppity, sex-crazed, strange jazz-dancing negroes are risin' up and influencing youth with the blues inspired rock and roll and marihuana.
posted by symbioid at 8:52 AM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


/chooses life.
posted by Artw at 8:59 AM on June 1, 2013


To quote the psychiatrist in Fawlty Towers: "There's enough material there for an entire conference."
posted by gimonca at 9:09 AM on June 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


There's quite an homage to JFK from 8:55 to 10:08. Interesting inclusion.
posted by klarck at 9:14 AM on June 1, 2013


Pre-CHOICE (1964): The Billboard Prank

That's also a excellent, quick read. Extra bonus: one of the people involved in the prank was none other than Newton Minow.
posted by gimonca at 9:35 AM on June 1, 2013


"In your heart you know he might"

A very popular Goldwater campaign button of the day was a bottom silhouette of a B-52 over the phrase "Use it" all made to look like a peace symbol.
posted by shnarg at 9:45 AM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's quite an homage to JFK from 8:55 to 10:08. Interesting inclusion.

Particularly in an age where the rule is never to say anything good about someone from the other political party.

I gave up about 16 minutes in. It's a really hard slog, particularly for someone from the MTV generation where this fast cutting and bombardment of images style of directing is well established. It's definitely a product of its time - I assume the close ups on a few heads and the "Quorum Club" might mean something to someone who followed 1964 politics closely, but left me scratching my head.

Parts of it are pretty amusing, particularly the emphasis on degenerate filth as exemplified through a walk down what I guess was 1964 Times Square and into an adult bookstore. The camera gazes almost longingly on the adult book covers, and parts of Choice were undoubtedly filmed to titillate the audience. It reminds me of that joke about the preacher who complained about the dirty movie. "I watched that movie three times - just to give my opponents the benefit of the doubt!"

I also found Choice's condemnation of the lure of fast money and get-rich-quick schemes amusing. These days, the thinking in some conservative quarters appears to be that having money is a sign of being blessed by God; no one cares how it was made.

Goldwater might have rejected Choice because it was racist - but he also might have rejected it because it's a bit crap.
posted by Roentgen at 9:49 AM on June 1, 2013


There are some pretty interesting quotes on the Barry Goldwater Wikipedia page. A few of them:

"Everyone knows that gays have served honorably in the military since at least the time of Julius Caesar."

On Republicans in the 1990s: "Do not associate my name with anything you do. You are extremists, and you've hurt the Republican party much more than the Democrats have."

To Bob Dole, 1996: "We're the new liberals of the Republican party. Can you imagine that?"

In response to Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell's opposition to the nomination of Sandra Day O'Connor to the Supreme Court, of which Falwell had said, "Every good Christian should be concerned", Goldwater retorted: "Every good Christian ought to kick Falwell right in the ass. (According to John Dean, Goldwater actually suggested that good Christians ought to kick Falwell in the "nuts", but the news media "changed the anatomical reference.")
posted by Killick at 10:34 AM on June 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


It's incredible how today's Republicans substantially* redeem some of the bogeymen of previous decades. Nixon, Reagan, Goldwater have all been described as people who couldn't even get nominated on their record in today's Republican party. I think Bob Dole even said it of himself recently.

(*Note that "substantially" does not mean "completely" or even "largely".)
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:47 AM on June 1, 2013


I think the film is a brilliant bit of historical ephemera. Anyone claiming this is somehow deluded and/or wrong is missing the point. The film captures the sentiment of a large segment of society. They've transposed American ideals to their way of life, which is what liberals do as well, just substituting in different political / economic goals for whatever they think George Washington/Bald Eagles/Franklin would have wanted if they were alive today.

Perhaps the best way to see this film is as the last will and testament of the Greatest Generation. I'm reminded of a quote I read the other day:
"As exceptional as the Greatest Generation might have been, they really tanked the endgame, handing a dominant military, a booming economy and atomic weapons over to children whom they had negligently entrusted to raise themselves. As a result, America got Baby Boomers, a gang of attention-starved consumption machines, hell-bent on winning their parents’ approval and affection. My father, himself a Boomer, is fond of noting how flawed the politicians of his generation (technically Americans born between 1946 and 1964) seem when compared to the leaders who came before them. For example, while Bill Clinton is inarguably the most adept politician of his generation, his insatiable sexual ego mitigated his power at the expense of his constituents. Clinton, a man who had acquired more power and achievement than any person in his position aught to have considered possible, wagered a considerable portion of his winnings to secure the affections of an administrative aide. In his autobiography, Clinton said he did this, “just because I could,” which adequately sums up the ethos of an entire generation in four words."
You can disagree with the particular vision of America presented in this film, i.e., its intonation that the movement for black civil rights is part of a wider moral decline. But I don't think too many commenters here would disagree with the narrator's quote: "At first, people say these are not new things...Americans have always played hard, lived it up, pushed their life way over the speed limit. Fun is no sin, and besides, nobody wants a sermon. The paychecks are fat. Everybody seems to be getting his, so I'll take mine. But something is missing in the big good time."
posted by anewnadir at 10:55 AM on June 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


The first thing that that makes me think of is that the Greatest Generation ethos of hard work, community and service was cultivated in the New Deal era of the Depression, which in turn followed the excesses of the Roaring Twenties.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:22 AM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Notice how "...under God..." is missing from the Pledge of Allegiance in the beginning of the "Good America" segment, which dates that clip to pre-1954.

Sadly, that's the only thing that would make this video controversial to today's G.O.P.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:27 AM on June 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


After a long slog through the whole thing, 6-7 minutes at a time, it occurs to me Goldwater's objections could just as well have been tactical as ideological. After 25 minutes of being manipulated past fear into a soul-sucking despair, there was no way that 3-4 minutes of assurances from Barry and the Duke going to be were going to be effective.
posted by klarck at 11:54 AM on June 1, 2013


In his autobiography, Clinton said he did this, “just because I could,” which adequately sums up the ethos of an entire generation in four words.

whereas kennedy boned anything with a skirt. ike boned his secretary all the way across europe ditto for fdr, and he was in a wheelchair.

what was different with clinton was that the heirs of goldwater controlled congress and were able to use the special prosecutor law, set up to respond to nixon's crimes, to turn a poltically motivated investigation of a penny-ante real estate deal into a factory trawler scale fishing expedition to find something to stop clinton (from turning the party of fdr into the party of nelson rockefeller thereby making the republican party redundant).
posted by ennui.bz at 12:08 PM on June 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


And check out the minute-long montage that starts around 11:55 -- whatever else went into making this half hour of agitprop, the filmmakers clearly were having a blast.

That segment features my homeboy Billie Sol Estes, who died a couple of weeks ago. The Estes scandal was HUGE at the time.
posted by neuron at 12:39 PM on June 1, 2013


I'm a "Late Boomer" born to Greatest Generation parents, including a WWII Vet father, when they were in their 30s... there was no more "entitled" group of people than those who declared "We won the war, give us everything." Because for a while, we did. I'm not excusing my generation for its sins; they just inherited them, turning down the Pride and turning up the Envy.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:09 PM on June 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


how "...under God..." is missing from the Pledge of Allegiance

Not just missing -- I never realized it replaced the word "indivisible" which is maybe why the old version was used, to emphasize the 'two Americas' theme.
posted by Rash at 2:48 PM on June 1, 2013


the opening montage is brilliant in a Leni Reifenstahl meets Russ Meyer sort of way. dancing is a form of black sexual degeneracy which is the same as protesting for civil rights

Replace the soundtrack with some crazy jazz and remove the closeups of Black people with Jews and put on the German voiceover and it would be perfectly at home in the Third Reich.

Fascists and reactionairies are the same the world over.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:13 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not just missing -- I never realized it replaced the word "indivisible" which is maybe why the old version was used, to emphasize the 'two Americas' theme.

The version I learned did not replace the word indivisible, it just added under god in. "... one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
posted by gjc at 4:06 PM on June 1, 2013


what was different with clinton was that the heirs of goldwater controlled congress

Were they the heirs of Goldwater? Seems to me they were the heirs of the "Reagan Revolution". I don't think Goldwater republicans would have given a shit about Clinton's BS.

(And not to rehash it too far, but that quote about Clinton searching out the affections of a staffer are somewhat misleading, as far as I understand the history of it. The story as I know it was that she offered herself to him, and his crime was not having enough will power.)
posted by gjc at 4:10 PM on June 1, 2013


For a second there I thought it was a film about an alternate reality where JFK evaded the assassination and he and Jackie went tear assing through Texas like they were directed by William Friedkin.

Seriously though, Clif White must've thought Barry Goldwater was Peter Gunn.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:04 PM on June 1, 2013


"... ike boned his secretary all the way across europe ditto for fdr, and he was in a wheelchair."

Ike boned FDR? In a wheelchair?
posted by bcarter3 at 8:37 PM on June 1, 2013


Not surprised that Goldwater rejected the film as racist. Goldwater, although he would have been a disastrous president, was a man of character and integrity.

He hated the religious right--he once said he'd like to kick Jerry Falwell in the ass--and, among other things, opposed the enactment of Don't Ask Don't Tell.

In 1964, by the way, Hillary Rodham (Clinton) was a Goldwater Girl.
posted by bcarter3 at 8:45 PM on June 1, 2013


The repeated images of a speeding car, and the shot of a beer can being thrown out the window, were an allusion to LBJ's then well-known habit habit of racing around his ranch in fast cars while drinking alcohol.
posted by bcarter3 at 8:51 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I assume the close ups on a few heads and the "Quorum Club" might mean something to someone who followed 1964 politics closely, but left me scratching my head.

The Quorum Club was a nightclub run by Bobby Baker, which some politicians and lobbyists used to hook up with women. It hasn't received much scholarly attention, because it mostly shows up in conspiracy books or books about JFK's adulterous relationships, but if things had gone a little differently, it might have led to something similar to the UK's Profumo Affair occurring during the JFK or LBJ administrations.
posted by jonp72 at 11:25 AM on June 2, 2013


There's also a lot of footage from The Harlem Riot of 1964. Does anybody know what other events were being depicted or referred to in the film? How much was exaggerated, and how much was made out of whole cloth? This is a time capsule that just screams out for a crowdsourced annotation.
posted by jonp72 at 11:29 AM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ike boned FDR? In a wheelchair?

They called it the military-industrial position.
posted by box at 12:29 PM on June 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Degree of difficulty: complex.

"Who like's Ike?! Say it! Who likes Ike?!"
posted by pracowity at 2:33 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


And then there was The Nude Eel.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:14 AM on June 3, 2013


I'm pretty sure the turn this thread took in the last three comments was exactly what "Choices" was warning us about.

I am entirely okay with that.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:31 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


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