When collecting historical items, there are times when you run across items that baffle you. Of course, with political items, you run across items with candidates’ photos on them but no names or offices. Sometimes you’ll just never figure it out.
You also find items with slogans on them, which happened recently when I picked up a Barry Goldwater button at an antique show. It’s 3 ½ inches across, and has an orange background and black letters that say “Goldwater for Halloween.” Fortunately, in these days of Google and the Internet, it’s a lot easier to figure out these things than it was in the past.
The 1964 election pitted President Lyndon Baines Johnson against Republican Barry Goldwater, senator from Arizona. Johnson, a Democrat, had assumed the presidency upon the assassination of John F. Kennedy in late November 1963. Goldwater was the leading conservative in the U.S. that year, and it was expected that he would be facing Kennedy in the 1964 election. Tragedy intervened and thrust Johnson into that role.
That 1964 election proved nastier than most. For example, anti-LBJ buttons were produced that said “Sterlize LBJ, No More Ugly Children.” The Goldwater campaign used the slogan “In Your Heart You Know He’s Right.” Right, as in correct, and right as in “Right Wing”, or conservative. Johnson countered with buttons that said “In Your Guts You Know He’s Nuts.”
But the biggest controversy loomed over the possibility of nuclear war. The Cold War with the Soviet Union was heating up and the Johnson team tried to paint Goldwater as an extremist who would get the U.S. involved in a nuclear war.
And that takes us right back to the “Goldwater for Halloween” pin. The pin isn’t a Goldwater pin, it’s an anti-Goldwater pin. The LBJ supporters were saying that Goldwater was so scary he reminded them of something from Halloween. Halloween, of course, was just a week before the election.