Open Thread, and 1984

I've been playing around on youtube, looking for historical political videos.  Here's a whole slew of Gary Hart commercials from 1984.  

Fascinating.  Do you remember the Hart-Mondale fight?

Tags: Open Threads, polls (all tags)



Re: Open Thread, and 1984

Didn't Mondale ask Hart:  Where's the Beef?"  Meaning light on policy positions?  Some here have appropriated that refrain for Obama as well.

by pamelabrown 2007-04-22 07:58PM | 0 recs
Re: Open Thread, and 1984

Yes, the "where's the beef" line was Mondale's against Hart. But it wasn't really about policy positions.

Hart was the first "neoliberal" to make a big splash in presidential politics.  Neoliberal was a term used to refer to certain American post-Watergate, pre-DLC Democratic politicians like Hart, Tim Wirth, Paul Tsongas and Bill Bradley, who were looking for alternatives to traditional New Deal/Great Society politics, and were especially keen to be seen as more friendly to business (particularly high-tech industry; for awhile they were known as "Atari Democrats") and less wedded to so-called "special interests" like organized labor and traditional manufacturing industries than the older generation of liberals (like Mondale).

Basically, "where's the beef" was akin to Matt Stollers "bar fight primary" applied to 1980s liberal politics. Mondale was asking whether Hart was a "real" Democrat, implying that Hart was going to abandon traditional Democratic constituencies such as the rustbelt auto, steel, and coal workers or the midwestern  farmers who were in such dire straits in the mid-1980s.

It was an extremely effective ploy because Hart really didn't have an answer for it.

by tgeraghty 2007-04-22 09:42PM | 0 recs
Re: Open Thread, and 1984

Here's a Time magazine article on Hart's ads from the March 12, 1984 issue, right after Hart upset Mondale in the New Hampshire primary. Note the emphasis on "high-tech" ("computer," "digital") and "future" in the ad:

TIME: Playing Video Games

There is no background music, but the theme from Star Wars would be appropriate. On a white grid that rolls off into blue infinity, the name Gary Hart appears in silvery letters. With the aid of computer animation, the screen seems to become a book, flipping open page by page. Page 1: a close-up shot of a youthful-looking Hart in a coat and tie speaking directly into the camera. "The politicians of yesterday are trading our future by asking our price instead of challenging our idealism." Page 2: Hart framed from fore head to chin by the television screen. "My candidacy is for those who still dream dreams . . . who will stand together once more to build an American future." Intones an unseen narrator: "Gary Hart ... a new generation of leadership."

Below the turning pages, the letters in Hart's name, glowing like the numerals on a digital clock, never move.

The 30-second "generation" spot was one of seven high-tech ads that the Hart campaign team hurried onto New Hampshire television screens during the last three weeks of the race.

Maybe primitive, but damn effective in 1984.

by tgeraghty 2007-04-22 10:01PM | 0 recs
Re: Open Thread, and 1984

I'm pretty sure that the "where's the beef" attack was directly questioning Hart on his issues:

Mondale: "You know, when I hear your ideas, I'm reminded of that ad, 'Where's the beef?' "

What was amazing about that attack was how patently false it was.  Of all the candidates, Hart probably had the most specific and dynamic policy proposals.  Indeed, he responded--after the debate--by holding up his book inside a bun for a photo op to demonstrate his "beefiness."  It would be akin to Barack Obama asking John Edwards to get more specific about health care.

It was a masterful piece of media manipulation on the part of Mondale and Bob Beckel.  Hart was a relative unknown at this point in time and lacked the resume experience of Mondale.  Declaring, in a convenient and humorous soundbite, that Hart was a lightweight would go a long way towards defining the senator from Colorado.

by LPMandrake 2007-04-22 10:05PM | 0 recs
Re: Open Thread, and 1984

You guys are missing the point.

If all there was to it was this:

Of all the candidates, Hart probably had the most specific and dynamic policy proposals

then Hart would have had no problem answering the criticism. Policy proposals was not fundamentally what the "where's the beef" line was about.

by tgeraghty 2007-04-23 11:36AM | 0 recs
Re: Open Thread, and 1984

There is an old saying in politics - when you are explaining you are losing.  It was a great soundbite from Mondale and while Hart tried to answer he couldn't do it in a nice, pithy quote like this one.  Hart had a great deal of policy depth as did Mondale.  This quote, though. was Mondale's equivilent of "there you go again."

by John Mills 2007-04-23 11:43AM | 0 recs
Re: Open Thread, and 1984

Right - Mondale was gut-punching Hart and Hart needed to counter with something like a right cross to the jaw (given the problems of the Carter administration it shouldn;t have been that hard). But Hart didn't have it in him to do that.

by tgeraghty 2007-04-23 12:11PM | 0 recs
Hart vs. Mondale

There was an element of "old Democrat" versus "new Democrat" in the background throughout the campaign.  The system in Washington corrupt?  No, say it's not so!   And assuredly, Mondale would question Hart's need to "update" the traditional Democratic party, and give a nodding wink, and a thumbs up sign, to Democrats prospering in the system as it was, at that time. Us, rock the boat?  

But...the "Where's the Beef" attack was not about the old versus new meme.  It was about attacking Hart for not actually proposing anything at all.  It suggested that Hart was just an empty gas bag trying to trick Democrats into voting for him.  

And yes, the attack was technically a lie.  Hart had published a book with all his proposals in considerable detail.  

Yet, Hart, on the advice of his advisers no doubt, decided not to integrate too many of those policy details into his stump speeches or interviews with the media...or if he did...they did not make it through the media filter.  

The lesson to be learned (that I am sure Edwards has learned) is that a book does not cut it when it comes to substance. You have to find a way to get your policy details out to even the low info voters.  Yipes!  

More significantly, if you actually want to eventually implement the dramatically different policies that you have described in your book (the ones that by definition rock the status quo boat), you must get a bona fide mandate from the general election voters for those policies.  Hiding them in a book gives you very little power to make them happen should you become president.  You need the explicit mandate.

by Demo37 2007-04-22 10:32PM | 0 recs
Re: Open Thread, and 1984

I remember this campaign well. Gary Hart had promise but wasn't able to flesh out his policy statements and instead simply stayed with the thematic approach, "New Ideas". He self-destructed in the 88 campaign. Mondale in turn was done in with the stupidity of the "Morning in America" theme by Reagan.

by cmpnwtr 2007-04-22 08:12PM | 0 recs
Re: Open Thread, and 1984

Mondale also carried the baggage of the Carter Admin which was very unpopular in 1984 and his politically stupid albeit true statement that he and Reagan were both going to raise taxes to close the deficit.

by John Mills 2007-04-22 08:20PM | 0 recs
Re: Open Thread, and 1984

Wow.  Campaign commercials have come a long way.

Gary Hart was the first Pres campaign I volunteered on (I was in college).  He was a bit of a tragic figure due to his personal foibles.  However, I was always attracted to him b/c he thought outside the box and was not afraid to propose new ideas.  He was very knowledgable on defense and foreign policy issue.

Fritz Mondale was a good man but he had the baggage of the Carter Admin which was very unpopular at the time.  I have always thought Hart would have run a much stronger race against Reagan although no one was going to beat him in 1984.

by John Mills 2007-04-22 08:18PM | 0 recs
Re: Open Thread, and 1984 consultants have sure come a long way since then.

by PsiFighter37 2007-04-22 08:19PM | 0 recs
My only real memory
I think my parents liked Mondale, because when I was ten I just liked whatever candidates my parents liked. That is why I surprised when, at some point during the primaries, all of my friends int he "advanced / gifted" class we attended once a week started a Gary Hart fanclub (yeah, nerds start young). All I can remember was being surprised by that, but still liking Mondale because my parents did.
by Chris Bowers 2007-04-22 08:19PM | 0 recs
Re: My only real memory

Interesting.  This was the first race my dad and I diverged on candidates - he was with Cranston and then Mondale, I was with Hart from the get go.  

by John Mills 2007-04-22 08:28PM | 0 recs
Re: My only real memory
My paternal grandfather was for John Glenn, which also confused me. What to do when your role models disagree?
by Chris Bowers 2007-04-22 08:44PM | 0 recs
Re: Open Thread, and 1984

Remember it?  I feel like I'm watching it everyday with the 2008 primary.  Hopefully Edwards or Obama fares better than Gary Hart against the insider candidate.

by LPMandrake 2007-04-22 08:22PM | 0 recs
great stuff-edifying


by kid oakland 2007-04-22 08:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Open Thread, and 1984

Hmm, interesting, I didn't know that there was  the whole Progressive vs. Insider thing going on in the 1984 campaign. One thing that I find interesting about Gary Hart, is that he always reminds me of the weirdness that was the 1988 campaign. I mean shit, we catch Hart with a hooker, Biden stealing British Labour speeches, and finally end up with liberal but baked potato Dukakis. The 80's were not good times to be Democrats, and especially not liberals.

by JewishJake 2007-04-22 08:24PM | 0 recs
Re: Open Thread, and 1984

If Hart could have kept it in his pants, he probably would have been the 1988 nominee and I suspect he would have beaten Bush I.  He had a lot going for him.  I always like the guy and found his ending somewhat tragic.

by John Mills 2007-04-22 08:31PM | 0 recs
Re: Open Thread, and 1984

If it wasn't for sex scandals Democrats wouldn't have any scandals at all...

by blueryan 2007-04-23 08:42AM | 0 recs
Re: Open Thread, and 1984


by John Mills 2007-04-23 09:40AM | 0 recs
A bit off topic, what was so bad about Dukakis?

I was seven at the time (I campaigned in my second grade class for Dukakis in my elementary school's mock election!), but what was so bad about Dukakis?

He was 17 points ahead of Bush after the Democratic convention and had solid experience as Governor of Massachusetts. I've also loved his soundbite, "this election is about competence, not ideology".

Was it just his running a dreadful general election campaign, or was there some other unsatisfying "hold your nose and vote for the lesser evil" quality about him that I'm missing?

by LSdemocrat1 2007-04-22 09:51PM | 0 recs
Re: A bit off topic, what was so bad about Dukakis

Dukakis came off like a robot.  He spoke like one, gestured like one, and simply showed very little emotion.  The rap on him was that he reminded people of a clerk, a bureaucrat.  Americans want their president to inspire them, to be a leader and to show some emotion.  Dukakis seemed like the perfect person to do your taxes.

The "competence not ideology" quote struck me as exactly wrong.  People should have voted for Dukakis because he was correct on the issues, not because Bush I was incompetent (unlike his son).  

Dukakis's 17-point advantage dissipated because he ineffectively responded (basically he didn't respond at all) to attack ads and allowed himself to be smeared for being -- gasp -- a liberal.  Clinton's rapid response strategy in 92 was borne directly out of having seen the Dukakis debacle.

There's also the classic, disastrous answer to the first question in the second debate between him and Bush.  Asked whether he would still oppose the death penalty if his wife were raped and murdered, he gave what has to be the most ineffectual answer of all time.  He could have blown up at Bernard Shaw for asking such a tactless question or he could have said, "Of course I would want to tear the guy apart, limb from limb, but that's why we have the law," but instead he basically said, "I've always opposed the death penalty..." and then somehow wound down by talking about taxes.  Worst. Nominee. Ever.

by Bob Fenster 2007-04-23 02:36AM | 0 recs
Re: A bit off topic, what was so bad about Dukakis

It truly was a textbook case of how not to run a campaign.  Clinton, to his credit, learned from the mistakes of Dukakis.

by John Mills 2007-04-23 09:43AM | 0 recs
Re: Open Thread, and 1984
For more old-timey campaign ads: The Museum of the Moving Image runs
this site
, "The Living Room Candidate", which features all television advertisements from the major party nominees (and competitive independants) from Eisenhower/Stevenson to Bush/Kerry.
by swessdog 2007-04-22 08:37PM | 0 recs
Re: Open Thread, and 1984

Note: the site may not work with Firefox (annoying).  It is, however, well worth a visit.

by swessdog 2007-04-22 08:39PM | 0 recs
Re: living room candidate

Great site.  Worked fine with firefox for me.  Amazing to the the changes in ads.  And some of the good themes.  Reagan's ads were great.  I wish he had been as good as his ads.

by pioneer111 2007-04-22 09:58PM | 0 recs
Re: living room candidate

That site is a great find.  

re: the "Democrats for Reagan" ad starring Kennedy -- do you recall whether that ad was endorsed by Kennedy?  I can't imagine that Kennedy would have supported Reagan over Carter.  I was in grade school  at the time so politics wasn't exactly on my mind in those days.

by LionelEHutz 2007-04-23 08:37AM | 0 recs
Re: living room candidate

Kennedy did endorse Carter in 1980 but there was a lot of bitterness amongst supporters on both sides.  I was a teenager at the time but my dad was a big Kennedy supporter who reluctantly voted for Carter.  I suspect the primary depressed the Dem vote overall although I have not looked at data.

by John Mills 2007-04-23 09:46AM | 0 recs
Oh, one more thing
No wonder Reagan's "morning in America" ad is so highly thought of. It is leaps and bounds beyond this stuff.
by Chris Bowers 2007-04-22 08:55PM | 0 recs
Remembering the 1984 Hart Campaign

I worked on the 1984 Hart campaign...and remember it fondly.  I think those old ads underscore just how deep the divide was between Mondale and Hart supporters.  Hart supporters just KNEW with every fiber of their being that Mondale was going to lose to Reagan (we were correct).  With Hart at least, we thought we had a chance.  

Hart had the grassroots, and Mondale had the establishment.  Hart wanted to start a political brushfire. Mondale felt he was entitled to a coronation.  It turned out to be one of the fiercest battles for the democratic nomination in recent history, much more acrimonious than 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, or 2004.  Going into the convention, Hart refused to concede (not very gracious?) until very late in the game.  In the end, it was the same old story: the grassroots lost to the establishment.

Hart lost for a few reasons.  First, Hart received few endorsements (if any?) from elected Democrats.  (So...from the very beginning, all the superdelegates were predisposed to help and vote for Mondale.)  Note how Hart seems to be running against the "establishment" (the Democratic party?) in the ads. Second, Hart focussed too much on his buzzwords and not enough on substance.  Mondale's charge of "Where's the Beef" hurt Hart.  Third, Hart never really established an attractive biography for himself in the eyes of the electorate.  Who was Gary Hart?  

In the 1988 was a different story. IMHO, even before his dalliance on the Monkey Business, Hart was NOT going to be the nominee that year.  In that year, the nominee should have been Gore. Instead, we got Dukakis. In 1992, Clinton went to school on the Gore campaign of 1988 (learned from its mistakes), eventually chose Gore as VP, and in some measure, vindicated the Gore of 1988.  

by Demo37 2007-04-22 09:54PM | 0 recs
Re: Remembering the 1984 Hart Campaign

It sounds like you have a more insider perspective than I did, but I would content that the main reason Hart lost was an inability to define himself.  He was too unknown heading out of New Hampshire which allowed him to be defined by Mondale.  He just exploited the hell out of the "who is Gary Hart?" line of attack.  The name change, the signature change, the questions about his birthdate... these were all minor issues that, for most candidates, would have not have been stories.  For Gary Hart, as someone who basically went from nobody to front runner over night, these sorts of nonsense biographical stories became bigger issues.  I don't think anyone would vote for Walter Mondale because Gary Hart used to be Gary Hartpence, but those stories contributed to the overall Mondale-fueled narrative that Hart was too unknown and too unsteady for the White House.

I should note, also, that I don't think it was just bad luck that hurt Hart.  I think the campaign and the candidate could have done a better job deflating those stories and demonstrating that he was just as steady as Fritz Mondale.  Attacking Mondale for running ads he wasn't running, pulling the (effective) attack ads in Illinois, etc were all instances of campaign that was giving off the impression of severe disorganization.  Still, he came damn close.

by LPMandrake 2007-04-22 10:16PM | 0 recs
Re: Remembering the 1984 Hart Campaign

Mondale had such enormous institutional advantages, almost as much as Gore had over Bradley in 2000. If there had been a netroots in 1984, maybe they could have helped Hart along.

About five or six years ago I saw Hart at a seminar in Oxford, England. He went back to get some sort of advanced degree in philosophy, and I was a grad student there at the same time. The faculty I knew spoke very highly of Hart's intellect and writing. It is sad that he was able to be caricatured as lacking in substance.

by desmoinesdem 2007-04-22 10:24PM | 0 recs
Like Gore vs. Bradley

Yes, Gore vs. Bradley is a decent analogy...though...Hart came much closer to winning the nomination than Bradley did.

Hart's supporters were fanatical back in 1984, very much like the Dean supporters in 2003-2004, and Hart was definitely pre-internet. Yet, interestingly, when you get right down to it, Hart was more effective in the actual race for the nomination than was Dean.  Hmmm....

by Demo37 2007-04-22 11:19PM | 0 recs
Who is Gary Hart?

Yes, you are right. I agree that Hart did not lose the 1984 campaign because of bad luck.  Hart and his campaign made the mistakes that did Hart in.  Still, they came so very close.

The "Who is Gary Hart?" line of attack was significant.  It underscores something about presidential candidates in general. If you can field a candidate who has a good "sellable" biography, that is a good thing.  It is not essential, but it can certainly be VERY helpful.  

The recent NYT piece describing Axelrod's efforts to "define" Obama's biography (which I do not think Axelrod should have discussed with the Times), over and above Obama's actual policies, reflects the recognition that biography is important. IMHO, Edwards needs to rededicate some of his energies to this task. After all, Edwards is the son of a millworker, grew up in a milltown, was first in his family to go to college, went to public schools his whole life, and always fought for the common man against corporate greed.  Edwards is of the people, by the people, and for the people...but do all the voters KNOW that?  

by Demo37 2007-04-22 11:01PM | 0 recs
Re: Remembering the 1984 Hart Campaign

I worked on the Hart campaign too.  Where did you work?  I campaigned for Hart in Iowa, Oklahoma, Penn. and WV.  I would say I was a paid staffer but..uh...Hart's campaign wasnt very good about paying the paid staff, lol.

Interestingly, in Iowa I worked with Marc Dann, who is now the Ohio AG.  A very smart guy.

I think Hart lost because of two tactical mistakes.  There was a debate between what was then billed as the "Super Tuesday" of mostly southern primary states.  The information that we got in Oklahoma (the guy running the OK campaign was a close friend of Hart and was well connected to the campaign) is tha Pat Caddell had us sweeping the south about a week out from the vote.  But then there was this debate in Atlanta.  Hart was asked a question about what he would do if there was an unidentified airplane in US Airspace and it was unclear if the plane was hostile (an interesting question in light of 911).  Hart answered something like "well I would order our planes to fly close and look in the windows and see if it looked civilian or not."  Well, I dont know much about the military but this answer made it easy to ridicule Hart and played into the "he's too young, inexperienced and just wierd" thing that Mondale and the press was trying to stick to Hart.  In the end he lost I think Alabama and Georgia.  As a result the news stories were, "Mondale's back" - even though Hart actually did quite well in total delegates - instead of what could have been "Hart Sweeps."

The second tactical mistake is the famous "pulling the ad" thing.  If you went through the ads, I think the second to the last one was about Illinios primary election and centered around and attack of "Fast Eddie" Vydroliack (I am positive that is NOT how you spell it, but whatever).  Hart ordered the campaign to take the ad down because it was so negative.  Yet it kept running for several more days, which Mondale kept bringing to people's attention.  Mondale kept saying something like "hey he cant even run his own campaign, how is he going to run the country."  Actually, the whole thing was Strother's fault, which he admits to in his book, but it made Hart look bad.  As a result he went from +5 in the polls to an election loss of 5%.

Those two tactical mistakes, with the resulting losses and bad press, in my opinion ultimately cost Hart the election.

by Andy Katz 2007-04-23 06:43AM | 0 recs
Re: Open Thread, and 1984

I still think "Roy Strother" (I may not have the name exactly right), the guy who did Hart's commercials, is the best political consultant ever.  By the way, he wrote a great book about his experience as one of the first consultants called "Falling Up."

by Andy Katz 2007-04-23 06:21AM | 0 recs
Re: Open Thread, and 1984

I don't recall the fight.  I was only 3 years old during that primary

And you were only 5.

by tlongpine 2007-04-23 01:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Open Thread, and 1984

I remember it well... I was Walter Mondale's state director in Texas.... won 60-19... Gary Hart lost because Roy Spence produced a brilliant commercial "Red Phone"... basically said do you really trust Gary Hart to deal with the Soviets.... too inexperienced, too young undertones.... And Spence is helping Hillary this time around.... Don't think Hillary is going to have any 41-point blowouts, but don't underestimate her

by AustinTexas 2007-04-24 01:59PM | 0 recs


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