1972–Nixon & McGovern Ads–Stephanie D’Anna
The candidates running for President in the 1972 election were George McGovern and Richard Nixon. McGovern was a Senator from South Dakota who was a member of the United States Army Air Corps and served in World War II, he was director of the Food for Peace Program, and a strong supporter of liberal causes and took a liberal position on social issues like abortion, homosexuality, and the women’s movement. He was strongly opposed to America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. On the other hand, Richard Nixon had served as a Navy lieutenant commander and was Vice President under Eisenhower in 1952. He first lost in the Presidential election in 1960 to John F. Kennedy however was nominated to run again and was elected President in 1968. In his first term as President, Nixon accomplished revenue sharing, the end of the draft, new anticrime laws, a broad environmental program, and he appointed Justices of conservative philosophy to the Supreme Court. Nixon was on a quest for world stability and wanted to reduce tensions with China and the U.S.S.R. He was nominated again at the end of his first term and was elected for a second term in this election of 1972.
For my first example of campaign rhetoric from the 1972 election between George McGovern and Richard Nixon, I am going to address the campaign ads for both candidates. Both candidates aired two very different ads. Firs of all, George McGovern focused on the negative aspects to Richard Nixon in his campaign ad. The commercial aired before the Watergate Scandal had come about. The Watergate Scandal stems from a break-in at the offices of the Democratic National Committee during this campaign. The break-in was traced back to officials of the Committee to Re-Elect the President. Nixon denied any involvement. To describe McGovern’s campaign ad, he pretty much pieced together a lot of newspaper articles that had shown Nixon in a negative light. Some of the headlines are “Nixon Ex-Aides, 5 Others Indicted in Bugging Case,” “FBI Finds Nixon Aides Sabotaged Democrats,” and “President’s Credibility Under Attack.” In addition to showing these articles and headlines, there is a man saying what Nixon is about. “This is about the government, this is about credibility, this is about bugging, this is about spying, this is about lying, etc” and then he says “and this is how you stop it, with your vote” with McGovern’s name across the screen in big bold letters. Keeping in mind that the Watergate Scandal was not really public yet, I think it is a pretty bold move on McGovern’s side to release a campaign commercial focusing on it. I personally think this commercial was annoying just because of how many times he says “This is about…” and I think it would have been beneficial to focus on what McGovern was planning on doing for our country once he was elected, not the drama going on with Nixon.
Nixon, on the other hand, chose a different route when making his campaign ad. He focused on his positive achievements during his first term as President rather than putting McGovern down. His commercial features the song “Nixon Now” which is an upbeat, happy song. The ad is filled with pictures that do not even have anything to do with Nixon. There are people running through the rain, there’s a butterfly, people playing in water, none of this has anything to do with the campaign but he uses it to make people think that things are happier and better with him as President of the United States. Nixon’s ad is about twice as long as McGovern’s and has the complete opposite mood. There are a lot of images of Nixon shaking hands with citizens of the United States of America and posters expressing people’s love for President Nixon. As I mentioned before, Nixon had a lot of success as President, including revenue sharing, the end of the draft, new anticrime laws, a broad environmental program, and he appointed Justices of conservative philosophy to the Supreme Court, so I feel that focusing on his positive aspects rather than McGovern’s negative aspects was a good choice. Allowing the voters to see his successes was a way to prove to them that he is a credible candidate for reelection.
The election resulted in the reelection of Richard Nixon in a landslide. In fact the only state that McGovern won was Massachusetts. This was one of the biggest deficits in election history. The campaign ads shown for this campaign are important forms of rhetoric that persuade the American public to vote or not vote for a certain candidate. Nixon’s ad was not necessarily better but when factoring in the margin of victory, the ad could have been a deciding factor for some voters.