Chapter 40 ~ The Eisenhower Era ~ 1952 – 1960
I. The Advent of Eisenhower
In 1952, the Democrats chose Adlai E. Stevenson, the witty governor of Illinois, while Republicans rejected
isolationist Robert A. Taft and instead chose World War II hero Dwight D. Eisenhower to run for president and
anticommunist Richard M. Nixon to be his running mate.
Grandfatherly Eisenhower was a war hero and liked by everyone, so he left the rough part of campaigning to
Nixon, who attacked Stevenson as soft against communists, corrupt, and weak in the Korean situation.
Nixon then almost got caught with a secretly financed “slush fund,” but to save his political career, he
delivered his famous and touching “Checkers Speech.” In it, he denied wrongdoing and spoke of his family
and specifically, his daughter’s cute little cocker spaniel, Checkers. He was forgiven in the public arena and
stayed on as V.P.
iii. The “Checkers speech” showed the awesome power of television, since Nixon had pleaded on national TV, and
even later, “Ike,” as Eisenhower was called, agreed to go into studio and answer some brief “questions,” which
were later spliced in and edited to make it look like Eisenhower had answered questions from a live audience,
when in fact he hadn’t.
This showed the power that TV would have in the upcoming decades, allowing lone wolves to appeal directly
to the American people instead of being influenced by party machines or leaders.
iv. Ike won easily (442 to 89), and true to his campaign promise, he flew to Korea to help move along peace
negotiations, yet failed. But seven months later, after Ike threatened to use nuclear weapons, an armistice was
finally signed (but was later violated often).
In Korea, 54,000 Americans had died, and tens of billions of dollars had been wasted in the effort, but Americans
took a little comfort in knowing that communism had been “contained.”
II. “Ike” Takes Command
Eisenhower had been an excellent commander and leader who was able to make cooperation possible between
anyone, so he seemed to be a perfect leader for Americans weary of two decades of depression, war, and nuclear
He served that aspect of his job well, but he could have used his popularity to champion civil rights more than
he actually did.
The success of brutal anticommunist “crusader” Joseph R. McCarthy was quite alarming, for after he had sprung
onto the national scene by charging that Secretary of State Dean Acheson was knowingly employing 205
Communist Party members (a claim he never proved, not even for one person), he ruthlessly sought to prosecute
and persecute suspected communists, often targeting innocent people and destroying families and lives.