If you’ve watched a lot of television in New York state this summer and fall, you might have noticed that gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino hasn’t been making many ads about his challenger, incumbent Andrew Cuomo.
But that’s changed over the course of the last week. Astorino’s newest virtual attack on Cuomo is a recreation of the most infamous political attack ad in American history, the one commercial that set the precedent for the modern political ad—the “Daisy” commercial.
Created by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, the commercial only aired once. In the commercial, a little girl sits in a field picking petals from a daisy and counting them. After about 30 seconds, her counting is replaced by a frightening echoish voiceover. A man’s voice counts downward from 10 and when zero is reached, the screen shoots to footage of an exploding atomic bomb. Johnson’s voice is then heard saying “These are the stakes to make a world all of God’s children can live or to go into the dark. We must either love each other or we must die.” The ad, meant to attack Johnson’s challenger Barry Goldwater on his unstable stance on atomic warfare, had a tremendous impact on viewers and some have deemed it a big reason Johnson won that year.
Astorino’s commercial is almost an exact remake, but instead stating “These are the stakes. Do we re-elect a governor who may end up in jail?” Astorino’s main weapon since July has been the investigation of the Moreland Commission, a committee formed by Gov. Cuomo to seek out corruption in the state legislature. When the committee started investigating the governor himself, Cuomo apparently shut down his commission last March. The ad only aired one day, almost exactly 50 years to the day since Johnson’s aired.
Astorino’s attempt, I’m afraid, is not only unoriginal, but unclear and outdated. To virtually recreate the one political ad everyone remembers, makes him look, to me, like he’s run out of ideas. It might as well be the sequel to “Cinderella,” which was released by Disney more than half a century after the first one: A mere joke in the wake of one of the most-known and oldest Disney creations.
The main problem is the in-your-face message that came from Johnson’s advertisement that leaves more of a raised eyebrow in Astorino’s. The thing that made Johnson’s ad so effective was that 1964 was during the height of the nuclear age. The Cuban Missile Crisis, a sixteen-day event that brought the world closer to nuclear war than it ever had been before or since, had been only two years before Johnson’s re-election season. The fear of nuclear annihilation was something shared by every single American that was comprehensive of what such a thing could do.
Astorino not only tries to use that atomic fear, which is not at all the fear it was 50 years ago, but he uses an atomic bomb to talk about political corruption. Neither corruption, nor the Moreland Commission, is a constant fear in New Yorkers. The Moreland Commission still has to be constantly explained to people when it comes up in conversation, and is such a complicated story in itself that it is hard to strike a chord with voters on that one issue.
It looks like it was more of a last attempt to get voters’ attention on the Moreland Commission issue, which doesn’t appear to have harmed Cuomo’s big lead that much. It is saddening that such an important issue like political corruption isn’t paid more attention to in a state that claims to care about it so much.