Politics

Obama recycles themes from failed democratic presidential campaigns

Photo of Alexis Levinson
Alexis Levinson
Political Reporter

Which presidential candidate said this in an ad: “I refuse to make your family pay more so that millionaires can pay less?”  Who promised to “fight for seniors” against opponents who wanted to “slash Medicare?”

If you answered President Barack Obama, you’re about 27 years too late. Those pronouncements came from an ad for Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro, the Democratic pols who ran against Ronald Reagan in 1984. (Mondale’s ticket lost to Reagan in a landslide, winning only one state.)

This year Obama is pushing the same themes as Mondale, and other former Democratic presidential candidates. The video comes from The Living Room Candidate, a website launched in 2008 by the Museum of the Moving Image.

Watch Mondale and Ferraro:

It’s not just Mondale and Ferraro whose messaging is seeing rebirth. If you’re nostalgic for the days of side-ponytails and Molly Ringwald, dust off your parachute pants and your fingerless gloves because the Democratic National Committee’s current messaging against former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney seems like an eighties retread.

Decades before the DNC launched its WhichMitt.com website to highlight Romney’s alleged issue flip-flops, President Jimmy Carter’s 1980 re-election campaign aired “Flipflop,” an ad attacking Ronald Reagan for changing his position on nuclear proliferation.

“In this debate, in this whole campaign, Governor Reagan has changed important positions to get votes and then blandly tried to wipe out the earlier position,” says the narrator in the ad. “Which Ronald Reagan should we believe?”

Watch Jimmy Carter ask, “Which Ronald Reagan?

Sound familiar?

Then there was Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis’ 1988 campaign against then-Vice President George H. W. Bush.

A Dukakis ad called “Our Concern” clipped a few lines from a September 1988 debate during which he said he sympathized with “[p]eople all over this country, who in some cases are living from paycheck to paycheck, and in other cases are having a hard time opening up the door of college opportunity to their children.”

“And I think it’s time that when you got a job in this country it came with health insurance,” Dukakis added.

Watch Michael Dukakis defend the 99 percent:

Those themes, meant to illustrate that Dukakis “spoke for our concerns,” are remarkably similar to President Obama’s speech this week in Kansas.

“Fewer and fewer of the folks who contributed to the success of our economy actually benefited from that success,” Obama said Tuesday. “Those at the very top grew wealthier from their incomes and their investments, wealthier than ever before. But everybody else struggled with costs that were growing and paychecks that weren’t. And too many families found themselves racking up more and more debt just to keep up.”

His speech also touched on the importance of making college tuition as low as possible, reforming the tax code, and prioritizing universal health care.

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