“And That’s The Way It Was”
Sixty years ago it was 1952 and perhaps this is a good time to look back at the past.
In 1952 the Democrats had been in power for twenty years instead of just four. Although the incumbent Harry Truman is now rightly considered a great president, that was not true at the time. His popularity rating was at 22%, the lowest in history. This was due to the continuing war in Korea, the raging anti-communism of the period including the perceived disloyalty of some federal employees, spy exposures and a series of minor scandals (some of the President’s aides had received deep freezers and mink coats for their wives in return for favors). As a result, many people felt it was time for a change.
To that end,
Dwight Eisenhower (then a General of the Army and the Military Commander of
NATO) had a visitor at his residence near
Eisenhower had been approached many times about running for president. At first he turned it down with the usual soldier’s disdain for politics but moderate republican leaders kept coming to him saying “You’ve got to save the party from Joe McCarthy and Bob Taft”. Robert Taft was the leading senate Republican and the most important leader of the party’s ultra conservative “Old Guard” wing. I do not fault Ike for changing his mind and deciding to run. After all, one would have to be superhuman to resist the constant pressure on him to “save the country and the party”.
conventions met here in
On the first
ballot Ike fell nine votes short of the 604 votes needed for the nomination,
however several delegations then switched their votes giving Eisenhower a
victory without a second ballot. Ike
approved the selection of
met two weeks later. For some months
previous to the convention, President Truman had been trying to get Adlai
Stevenson II (the Governor of Illinois) to run for President. When the convention met, Stevenson in his
capacity as the host governor addressed the convention. Among other things, he said “Here my friends
on the prairies of
Among the things the general election campaign is remembered for are:
Joe McCarthy’s mudslinging, including his constant cry “One communist in the State Department is one communist too many”.
Eisenhower’s failure to defend retired General of the Army and former Secretary of State George C. Marshall in a speech in Milwaukee.
And the “Checkers Speech”.
McCarthy and other old guard Republicans had wrongly denounced General Marshall
as a traitor. In a speech in Milwaukee Dwight
Eisenhower was going to include a line defending
The last thing the campaign is remembered for is Richard Nixon’s “Checkers Speech”. The New York Post ran a headline story by a screenwriter inaccurately portraying a Nixon campaign fund as a slush fund used to support Nixon’s personal and family life. In fact, none of the money went to them personally. It was used to defray the usual political campaign expenses such as postage, audio recordings of speeches, etc. Nevertheless a considerable furor resulted.
Nixon made as everyone knows a televised speech in which he spelled out the details of what the fund was for and how it was run as well as a complete break-down of his finances and those of his family. The reference in his speech to “Checkers” was to a cocker-spaniel that his children received as a gift from an admirer. The speech, whatever one may think of it, was a resounding success. By the breakdown of his finances, Nixon had showed himself to be a person that millions could identify with, that this was somebody who knew what it meant to have to worry about the costs of raising a family, including braces for the children and college expenses.
On election night Ike won the election receiving 55.1% of the popular vote to Stevenson’s 44.4% and receiving 442 electoral votes to Stevenson’s 89. Nevertheless Stevenson polled more popular votes than any other losing presidential candidate up to that time.
In his concession speech Stevenson quoted the Abraham Lincoln story about the boy who had stubbed his toe: “He was too old to cry but it hurt too much to laugh”.
“And that’s the way it was Tuesday November 4, 1952. Good night”
Ambrose, Stephen E.
Eisenhower Volume One
Soldier, General of the Army, President-Elect 1890-1952
The Glory and the Dream