A.P. U.S. History Notes
Chapter 40: “The Eisenhower Era”
~ 1952 – 1960 ~
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
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, touching “
,” in which he talked
about his family and specifically mentioned his cocker spaniel.
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 he didn’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.
Ike won easily (442 to 89), and true to his campaign promise, he flew to Korea to help move along
peace negotiations…and failed…but seven months later, after Ike threatened to use nuclear
weapons, an armistice was finally signed (but was later violated often).
54,000 Americans had died, and tens of billions of dollars had been wasted in the effort, but
American’s took a little comfort in knowing that Communism had been “contained.”
“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 standoff.
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 charged onto the national scene by charging that Secretary of State
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.
Eisenhower privately loathed McCarthy, but the president did little to stop the anti-red,
since it appeared that most Americans supported his actions, but his zeal led him to purge
important Asian experts in the
, men who could have advised a better
course of action in Vietnam.