in about 100 words or less
The October 1916 edition of The Moving Picture World, p.53, contains a report by Edward Weitzel on the use of the screen for campaign purposes by the Democratic and Republican Parties. The report states that the National Committees of both the Democratic and Republican parties had “added a motion picture department to their campaigns and are prepared to put forth pictorial arguments in support of the merits of their respective presidential candidates”.
The Democrats declared that their motion pictures would make an “appeal to patriotism, not to partisanship” noting that their first one-reel production depicted President Wilson in action, working at his desk, and addressing the audience, followed by members of cabinet giving short speeches “to remind the spectator of some act of importance accomplished by the secretary’s department”. Plans for their second film included “scenes from the lives of Washington and Lincoln and giving views of President Wilson at the dedication ceremonies in connection with the birthplace of the Great Emancipator”. Meanwhile, the Republicans suggested that they were preparing to show Hughes on tour so as to “acquaint the public with matters that are of vital importance to the welfare of the nation” and while using “every legitimate means of driving our arguments home through the wonderful visualizing power of the screen”, they also promised to “present dignified and truthful arguments in favor of the Republican candidate”.
The use of moving pictures in 1916 suggested that both parties recognized the importance of the emerging American mass media. Interestingly, the progressive approach of the Republican Party stood in contrast to the nostalgic message of the Democrats. In 2016, it seems that while the messages are essentially the same, the roles are reversed. The Republicans are now the ones making an emotional appeal to the past in wanting to “Make America Great Again”, while Democrats are looking to elect the first woman president. Though much has changed in 100 years, some things remain the same (Klaus Ming October 2016).