The 1952 Presidential election hinged on the issues of Korea, Communism, and corruption.
Examine the role of Cold War issues in U.S. politics of the 1950s
Unpopular incumbent President Harry S. Truman decided not to run, so the Democratic Party instead nominated GovernorAdlai Stevenson II of Illinois. Stevenson had gained a reputation in Illinois as an intellectual and eloquent orator.
A revolutionary socialist movement to create a classless, moneyless, and stateless social order structured upon common ownership of the means of production, as well as a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of this social order. This movement, in its Marxist-Leninist interpretations, significantly influenced the history of the 20th century, which saw intense rivalry between the "socialist world" (socialist states ruled by communist parties) and the "western world" (countries with capitalist economies).
Election of 1952
The United States presidential election of 1952 was the 42nd presidential election. Cold War tension between the United States and the Soviet Union was at its peak. In the United States Senate, Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin had become a national figure after chairing congressional investigations into the issue of Communist spies within the U.S. government. McCarthy's so-called "witch hunt," combined with national tension and weariness after two years of bloody stalemate in the Korean War, the Communist Revolution in China, the 1949 Soviet acquisition of nuclear weapons, and the early-1950s economic recession, set the stage for a hotly contested presidential race.
Incumbent President Harry S. Truman, who as early as 1950 had decided not to run, decided to back current Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson. As in 1948, President Truman reached out to General Dwight D. Eisenhower to see if he had interest in heading the Democratic ticket. Eisenhower demurred at the time and then wound up heading the Republican ticket. The Democratic Party instead nominated Governor Adlai Stevenson of Illinois. Stevenson had gained a reputation in Illinois as an intellectual and eloquent orator, but had vacillated a great deal on whether he even wanted to run for the presidency. President Truman had several meetings with Stevenson about the his desire for Stevenson to become the standard bearer for the party. Truman became very frustrated with Stevenson and his indecision before committing to run.
The Republican Party saw a contest between the internationalist and isolationist perspectives. Senator Robert A. Taft said that isolationism was dead, but saw little role for the United States in the Cold War. Eisenhower, the NATO commander and war hero, narrowly defeated Taft, then crusaded against the Truman policies he blasted as "Korea, Communism and Corruption." Ike, as they called him, did well in all major demographic and regional groups outside the Deep South. Eisenhower won in a landslide, ending 20 consecutive years of Democratic control of the White House.
The Eisenhower campaign was one of the first presidential campaigns to make a major, concerted effort to win the female vote. Many of his radio and television commercials discussed topics such as education, inflation, ending the war in Korea, and other issues thought to appeal to women. The Eisenhower campaign made extensive use of female campaign workers who made phone calls to likely Eisenhower voters, distributed "Ike" buttons and leaflets, and gave parties to build support for the GOP ticket in their neighborhoods. On election day, Eisenhower won a solid majority of the female vote.
Eisenhower campaigned by attacking "Korea, Communism, and Corruption"—that is, what the Republicans regarded as the failures of the outgoing Truman administration to deal with these issues. The campaign accused the administration of neglecting Latin America and thus leading them into the arms of wily Communist agents waiting to exploit local misery and capitalize on any opening to communize America. Charges that Soviet spies had infiltrated the government plagued the Truman Administration and became a major campaign issue for Eisenhower. The Republicans blamed the Democrats for the military's failure to be fully prepared to fight in Korea, accused the Democrats of "harboring" Communist spies within the federal government, and blasted the Truman Administration for the numbers of officials who had been accused of various crimes.
In return, the Democrats criticized Senator Joseph McCarthy and other Republican conservatives as "fearmongers" who were recklessly trampling on the civil liberties of government employees.
Many Democrats were particularly upset when Eisenhower, on a scheduled campaign swing through Wisconsin, decided not to give a speech he had written criticizing McCarthy's methods, then allowed himself to be photographed shaking hands with McCarthy as if he supported him. Truman, formerly friends with Eisenhower, never forgot what he saw as a betrayal; he previously thought Eisenhower would make a good president, but said, "he has betrayed almost everything I thought he stood for."
Despite these mishaps, Eisenhower retained his enormous personal popularity from his leading role in World War II, and huge crowds turned out to see him around the nation. His campaign slogan, "I Like Ike," was one of the most popular in American history. Stevenson concentrated on giving a series of thoughtful speeches around the nation; he too drew large crowds. Although his style thrilled intellectuals and academics, some political experts wondered if he were speaking "over the heads" of most of his listeners and dubbed him an "egghead," based on his baldness and intellectual demeanor. Eisenhower maintained a comfortable lead in the polls throughout most of the campaign.
On election day, Eisenhower won a decisive victory, receiving more than 55% of the popular vote and carrying 39 of the 48 states. He took three Southern states that the Republicans had won only once since Reconstruction: Virginia, Florida, and Texas. This election was the first in which a computer (the UNIVAC I) was used to predict the results.