Issue Welfare



Museum of the Moving Image
The Living Room Candidate - Transcript
"Poverty," Johnson, 1964

MALE NARRATOR: Poverty is not a trait of character. It is created anew in each generation but not by heredity: by circumstances. Today, millions of American families are caught in circumstances beyond their control. Their children will be compelled to live lives of poverty unless the cycle is broken. President Johnson's war on poverty has this one goal: to provide everyone a chance to grow and make his own way, a chance at education, a chance at training, a chance at a fruitful life. For the first time in the history of America this can be done. Vote for President Johnson on November 3rd. The stakes are too high for you to stay home.


"Poverty," Democratic National Committee, 1964

Video courtesy of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library.

From Museum of the Moving Image, The Living Room Candidate: Presidential Campaign Commercials 1952-2012. (accessed April 20, 2024).


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This series of commercials about poverty and welfare reflects changing attitudes toward New Deal-style politics.
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Poverty McGovern Welfare Welfare Favor Rev. 1 Second Chance
Lyndon Johnson’s stark and moving 1964 ad "Poverty" used WPA-style black-and-white photographs and rural blues music to describe his vision for a war on poverty that would be funded by the increased federal spending on welfare.

In the 1970s, the Republicans attacked welfare for being unfair to the working class, as seen in one of the most effective ads from Richard Nixon’s 1972 campaign, “McGovern Welfare.”
Democrats were put on the defensive to justify their support for welfare programs. George McGovern tried to reassure voters that the government is not simply giving away money to the poor in “Welfare.”
This George Bush ad attacked the welfare system with a tone that would later be described as “compassionate conservatism.”
Bill Clinton shifted the paradigm in 1992 by making welfare reform one of his key issues (along with support for the death penalty). “Second Chance” took positions traditionally held by Republicans in order to regain control of the center, or at least neutralize an issue that had been an electoral liability for Democrats.