From Boomers to Millennials: A Modern US History Podcast

Episode 7 - 1952: The End of the Truman Show & the Rise of Eisenhower

February 08, 2020 Logan Rogers Season 1 Episode 7
From Boomers to Millennials: A Modern US History Podcast
Episode 7 - 1952: The End of the Truman Show & the Rise of Eisenhower
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From Boomers to Millennials: A Modern US History Podcast
Episode 7 - 1952: The End of the Truman Show & the Rise of Eisenhower
Feb 08, 2020 Season 1 Episode 7
Logan Rogers

President Harry Truman couldn't seem to catch a break during his final year in office. His attempts to bring an end to the Korean War were going nowhere, and his government was embarrassed by corruption scandals that hurt his administration's image. Truman didn't improve matters when he took drastic measures to break up a steel strike that threatened the war effort. He took the constitutionally dubious approach of having the federal government temporarily take over the steel factories. A couple months later, the US Supreme Court ruled that the president did not have the power to take such heavy-handed action without Congressional approval. Meanwhile, the Republican primary contest pitted veteran conservative Senator Robert Taft of Ohio against the relatively moderate General Dwight D. Eisenhower of Kansas. Eisenhower's popularity as a WWII hero helped him win the contest, but he had to choose the more right-wing Richard Nixon as a running-mate & make nice with Joe McCarthy in order to appease the party's conservative faction. Ike's moderate economic & foreign policy views nevertheless helped him prevail over erudite "egghead" Gov. Adlai Stevenson of Illinois in the general election. The episode concludes with a preview of the Eisenhower Administration's approach to maintaining the image of a placid & prosperous USA during the 1950s.

Show Notes Transcript

President Harry Truman couldn't seem to catch a break during his final year in office. His attempts to bring an end to the Korean War were going nowhere, and his government was embarrassed by corruption scandals that hurt his administration's image. Truman didn't improve matters when he took drastic measures to break up a steel strike that threatened the war effort. He took the constitutionally dubious approach of having the federal government temporarily take over the steel factories. A couple months later, the US Supreme Court ruled that the president did not have the power to take such heavy-handed action without Congressional approval. Meanwhile, the Republican primary contest pitted veteran conservative Senator Robert Taft of Ohio against the relatively moderate General Dwight D. Eisenhower of Kansas. Eisenhower's popularity as a WWII hero helped him win the contest, but he had to choose the more right-wing Richard Nixon as a running-mate & make nice with Joe McCarthy in order to appease the party's conservative faction. Ike's moderate economic & foreign policy views nevertheless helped him prevail over erudite "egghead" Gov. Adlai Stevenson of Illinois in the general election. The episode concludes with a preview of the Eisenhower Administration's approach to maintaining the image of a placid & prosperous USA during the 1950s.

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from boomers to millennials is a modern U. S history podcast, providing a fresh look at the historic events that shaped current generations from the mid 19 forties to the present Welcome to 1952 a k Episode seven. The End of the Truman Show and The Rise of Eisenhower. In our last episode, we discussed how the American led United Nations forces managed to stabilize the situation in Korea and stop the advance of a Chinese lead communist offensive into the southern half of the peninsula. By 1952 both sides were dug in on a battlefront that extended across Central Korea at approximately the 38th parallel. Naturally, in 1952 the most pressing national concern for most Americans was the blood being shed in Asia. Attempts at a cease fire during 1951 had been fruitless, in part due to disagreements between the American led U. N Coalition and the Communist powers over prisoner of war exchanges. Chairman Mao Ze dong, leader of China, hoped that if he stalled on making peace, perhaps the Americans would offer more concessions or maybe even begin a unilateral withdrawal of forces from the Korean Peninsula after all. Unlike the Chinese and North Koreans, we Americans were fighting halfway around the world, and we had a Democratic government that could theoretically be pressured by a war weary public into leaving the capitalist South Koreans to fend for themselves in 1952. Further attempts at peace negotiations were also hampered by the fact that President Harry Truman had announced that he wouldn't be seeking reelection as wth E. U s commander in chief. With Truman, now a so called lame duck president, there was a significant chance the next administration wouldn't maintain commitments agreed to by the current administration. The red Powers had good reasons to be in no great rush to make peace, according to historian George C. Herring. The 50 to peace talks quote quickly stalled over difficult, substantive questions, such as terms for a cease fire and an armistice. Close quote, hearing notes. The Trumans insistence that communist POWs who quote did not wish to be repatriated back to communist nations need not be compelled to do so was based on humanitarian concerns and political calculations. Truman wanted to be able to say that he had not forced people to return to life under quote unquote godless communism against their will. But Herring argues that this demand was somewhat foolhardy and unreasonable, given that China and North Korea were only asking the USA to adhere to quote the conventional position endorsed by the 1949 Geneva Convention of compulsory repatriation of POWs. Close quote. As a result of this and other disagreements, the Americans and Communist forces remained at loggerheads in their negotiations. So the war dragged on all throughout 1952 neither side gaining much ground and both factions continuing to suffer a significant number of casualties. President Truman was deeply frustrated that he could not end the war that his administration had entered into two years prior. The U. S public grew alarmed that it had already lost tens of thousands of American lives in a conflict that now seem to be dragging on for no good reason. Harry Truman recognized his ultimate responsibility for the nation's problems as the president, famously stating that the buck stops here and the blame could not be passed on to anyone else. Many Americans were more than happy to take him up on his offer to accept blame and concluded that the source of their problems was the diminutive Missourian in the White House. It didn't help matters that corruption scandals were bringing negative attention to the Truman administration. Historian James T. Patterson suggests that quote. The corruption, in fact, was minor, mainly involving influence peddling on a small scale. But it existed, and Truman, ever loyal to friends, had been slow to stamp down on it. Eventually, Truman's appointment secretary was convicted of accepting bribes, and nine federal employees in the Reconstruction Finance Corporation and Bureau of Internal Revenue went to jail. Close quote. Truman biographer David McCullough writes that Harry ended up firing his attorney general, who quote appeared to be obstructing investigations Truman had ordered into corruption in the Bureau of Internal Revenue. Such misconduct and dysfunction within the federal government did not inspire confidence in the president, according to law professor Noah Feldman. During spring 1952 a Gallup poll found that only 22% of the U. S public approved of President Truman's performance in office, despite the nation maintaining a relatively robust economy. McCullough found a memo in Truman's private papers in which the exasperated president wrote quote, What would Jesus Christ have preached if he'd taken a poll in Israel. It isn't polls or public opinion of the moment that counts. It's right or wrong. Close quote. His attitude in this statement may be quite admirable, but his unpopularity was nevertheless a major obstacle to is getting anything done during his last year in office. Even when he did take decisive action, which he couldn't do in Korea due to circumstances mostly beyond his control, it seemed to backfire on President Truman. The biggest political controversy of 1952 resulted from the president resorting to drastic measures to bring an end to a labor dispute. The conflict emerged because the money being pumped into the national economy for the Korean War effort was creating inflation by 1952 causing workers savings to be worth less and reducing the buying power of their wages. Organized steelworkers decided to go on strike when the steel companies refused to give them a pay raise. The workers argued that a pay increase was necessary given the inflation many other industrial workers had recently been given raises. See the discussion of auto workers gains in the Treaty of Detroit back in Episode five, while steelworkers wages had remained stagnant. President Truman was very concerned about the potential economic and military impact of this strike, Feldman observes that quote. In modern war, Steele was the single most important commodity to keep the soldiers fighting. Secretary of Defense Robert Lovett told Truman that the steel strike was likely to lead to a munitions shortage that would cost American lives. A steel shortage would also prevent construction of ships, airplanes and bridges. Manufacturing was a huge portion of the U. S economy back in the 19 fifties, and unlike today, America was then a big net exporter of industrial goods. Many of America's Cold War allies relied on imported steel from the USA. Truman's anger over this strike was part of a larger pattern. Back in 1946 he had been angered over a strike that shut down the nation's railways. As we discussed in Episode One, the president had lost his temper and it written in a draft of a speech that some strikers ought to be shot because their selfishness was hurting the country. His advisers thankfully convinced him not to deliver those incendiary remarks. But Truman had nevertheless gone on to seriously propose drafting striking workers into the Army. Had the strike not ended before he could make good on this threat. Truman's views about labor relations were somewhat unique. As a New Deal Democrat, he ostensibly supported big labor, and he had vetoed anti union congressional legislation such as the Taft Hartley Act. However, he disliked the economic disruption, conflict and uncertainty caused by work stoppages, despite the fact that strikes have been one of labor unions most effective negotiating tactics for decades. In the case of the steel strike of 1952 Truman heaped blame on both management and the union for failing to reach an agreement. And ultimately this time you would be much harsher on management than on the striking workers. When a government collective bargaining board proposed a more modest raise than the union had requested as a compromise solution, the labor leaders reluctantly agreed. But management refused to go along unless it could make up for the revenue loss by significantly raising steel prices. This angered Truman, who noted that the steel industry was earning robust profits. Allowing them to hike prices would essentially mean that the American taxpayers would subsidize the pay raise because, as Feldman notes, the U. S government was by far the largest purchaser of American steel. McCullough notes that Truman thought that rising steel prices would also quote, play havoc with his anti inflation policies and raise the cost of the war. Close quote. The dispute therefore dragged on into April, when Truman gave into his tendency toward knee jerk aggressive reactions by abruptly deciding that the federal government would use wartime emergency powers to seize the steel mills in order to reopen them. On April 8th, 1952 Truman publicly announced an executive order that directed the U. S government to take temporary possession of the steel industry. It wasa, as McCullough put it, quote one of the boldest, most controversial decisions of his presidency. Having the federal government sees the means of steel production away from private enterprise may seem like an odd thing to do in the name of fighting communism. But surprisingly few critiques of the action focused on its resemblance to socialist economics. Rather, it was the president's overly broad unilateral exertion of executive power that shocked and angered political leaders on both sides of the aisle. When Truman had proposed this move internally, some of his legal advisers had backed him up by suggesting that he had the inherent presidential power to prevent the U. S economy from being paralyzed during the national emergency of the Korean War. Nevertheless, there was little precedent for this level of government interference in private industry. And naturally, the question on many Americans lips was. Can he really do that? The United States Supreme Court would have to answer the question as the steel companies quickly brought legal action seeking to block the president's seizure of their factories. There were some difficulties with Truman's argument that he had no choice but to take this action under these circumstances. One is that he declined to use the Taft Hartley Act, which had passed over his veto back in 1947 a labor relations bill that gave the president the power to enjoin a strike and halted for 80 days. Truman rejected this option, in part because he had opposed the law, and his political allies in the labor movement did not want him to set a precedent of presidents. Invoking that anti labor union Bill, McCullough suggests that because the strike had already been postponed multiple times during negotiations, Truman also felt there was no sense in using Taft Hartley to delay still further when the facts of the dispute had not changed. But if lives truly were at stake, why would Truman not take this option, even if we just keep the mills open for a few more months? And even if he dislikes the law enabling him to do so? Another problem for Truman was that he couldn't claim that the security emergency of an outright war justified his heavy handed action because technically, the conflict in Korea was the United Nations police action rather than a war, in large part because Truman it opted not to seek a declaration of war against North Korea. Truman could only invoke a national emergency, not a state of war, in order to justify his unusual tactics. But the distinction between an emergency and a war would prove to be legally significant. Truman brought more criticism upon himself by making reckless statements at a press conference just 10 days after he issued the executive order. A skeptical reporter asked Truman if the president had the inherent power to see steel mills. Did he also have the power to seize newspapers and radio stations and a national emergency. Truman implied that he could do so if necessary for the good of the country. Which alarm to the assembled journalists, who for reasons both idealistic and self interested, believe deeply in the maintenance of the First Amendment right to freedom of the press. Newspapers around the country were soon condemning Truman for engaging in a gross abuse of executive authority. The Supreme Court of the United States fast tracked the legal dispute over Truman's emergency action to end the steel strike, given the important constitutional issues and economic interests at stake. The court reached its decision in June 1952 and determined in the case of Youngstown sheet and tube company, the Sawyer, by a 6 to 3 vote that Truman did not have the right to seize the factories. Relatively liberal justices such as Hugo Black, William O. Douglas and Robert Jackson, who we profiled in Episode one A on the Nuremberg trials, were usually on the same side. Is Truman politically, but they ruled that he had overstepped his authority in this case. The actual majority opinion of the court was written by Justice Black, and it's simply stated that the president did not have the constitutional power to take this action without invoking statutory authority based upon a law passed by Congress. Black rejected the administration's argument that the president had the power to seize the industry based upon his inherent Article two executive powers. However, legal scholar Noah Feldman contends that the most influential and commonly cited opinion in the Youngstown sheet case for future generations of judges and legal thinkers was actually Justice Robert Jackson's concurring opinion. Jackson emphasized the Congress had not ratified Truman seizure of the steel mills, nor had it been neutral or silent about how the president should resolve labor strikes. The president's move was an unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers because in this case, his actions had specifically violated. Congress is designated approach toe labor disputes, as spelled out by its recent passage of the Taft Hartley Act, with the legislative branch having indicated a statutory path for the president to resolve strikes that did not involve a government seizure of workplaces as an option to Jackson, it seemed that Congress had restricted the executive branch from taking such an action. Feldman writes that Jackson's view was that quote so long as Congress was acting within the scope of its vast constitutional powers, it could block the president from taking action, and the courts should uphold congressional authority over that of the president. Close quote. The justice's opinion derived in part from his concern that if presidents were allowed to seize entire industries during a national emergency with no congressional approval, it might create a deficit of democratic accountability for executive conduct, providing a pathway for the country to slide into authoritarianism. Jackson recalled from his time working on the Nuremberg war crimes trials that during the 19 twenties and thirties the German Weimar Republic's constitution had specifically given its government the power to suspend basic rights in times of national emergency. And Adolf Hitler had used this power to help transform Germany from a multiparty democracy into a Nazi dominated dictatorship. Feldman explains that Jackson's main point was that quote Under the United States Constitution, the president was not authorized to use the state of war to make exceptions to individual rights. Close quote. President Truman and Secretary of Defense Lovett were dejected upon losing the court case. McCullough reports that quote the steel strike that began after the court decision dragged on for seven weeks until midsummer 1952 making it the longest, most costly steel strike in the nation's history. Close quote. It did indeed mean that there were significantly fewer munitions produced for the U. S military during 52 than had been demanded. Strike created difficulties for both the domestic economy and the military, but fortunately for the American forces, it did not lead to any major defeats or territorial losses in the Korean War. The work stoppage ended with an agreement that allowed both a modest wage increase for labor and a modest steel price increase for management. The whole fiasco would fade into an unpleasant, distant memory for most Americans. Once Truman left office, however, the U. S Supreme Court's decision in the legal case of Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company V. Sawyer would live on in legal history long after most people had forgotten the steel plant seizure controversy during the 19 seventies. Feldman suggests that Justice Jackson's opinion in the case provided a key precedent supporting the Supreme Court's ruling granting Congress access to executive branch records such as presidential audiotapes during the Watergate scandal. Of course, controversies over the limits of executive power are still with us in the 21st century. During the war on terror era, Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama were both accused by their opponents of using executive orders and other measures to push through policies that constitutionally should have been approved by Congress. Furthermore, at the time of this recording in the year 2020 the current president has claimed that Article two of the U. S Constitution gives him the power to quote, do whatever I want as president Close quote and they're currently cases pending about his exercises of executive authority. So stay tuned for further developments in our continuing national debate over the proper limits of presidential power. By fall 1952 Harry S. Truman's tenure as president was coming to an inauspicious end. He had emerged from the controversy over the steel strikes, looking simultaneously heavy handed for seizing the mills and weak by losing the court battle over the issue. In recent decades, many historians have given a favorable overall assessment of Truman's presidency, citing its early Cold War achievements such as the Berlin Air left, the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan and the establishment of NATO But even these scholars usually acknowledge that the president had lost all his diplomatic and political mo mentum by the end of his second term. In the election year of 1950. Too many Democrats were relieved that Truman had decided not to run for president again, feeling that the party needed to rebrand itself with a new leader at its head in order to avoid a big loss in November. The race is for both major American political party's presidential nominations look fairly wide open until a famed political outsider jumped into the race and took the political scene by storm bowling over opposition at the far ends of both parties. In order to capture the White House, Dwight David Eisenhower was the son of strict Midwestern German American parents who were deeply religious and who had pacifist leanings. He nevertheless chose the path of a military man enrolling in the U. S. Army's academy at West Point in upstate New York. Eisenhower missed out on active duty and World War, but he served in Panama and the Philippines during the 19 twenties and thirties, working his way up the ranks as a highly regarded member of the officer Corps during World War two, Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall selected him to be the supreme allied commander of Europe. Historian James T. Patterson argues that quote Eisenhower's successful handling of D Day, his open democratic manner and his ability to maintain harmony among often egotistical military and political figures made him an exceptional leader of coalition forces. Close Quote General Eisenhower, as the architect of the D Day invasion, had become wildly popular among the American public during and after the war, as the recent adulation for General Douglas MacArthur in the wake of his forced retirement had demonstrated the American people still revered their victorious World War two commanders. The puzzle for the pundit class was what precisely were Eisenhower's politics. Many Americans didn't seem to care. They just knew he was a skilled commander and upstanding patriot and a capable executive. Of course, the leaders of the respective political parties cared a great deal. Truman once made comments mentioned at the end of Episode six that he didn't think Eisenhower had enough knowledge about politics to run for president. But for the sake of keeping the Democratic Party in power. By 1951 Truman was reaching out to Eisenhower about potentially running for president as a Democrat. In 1952 an overture the general had firmly declined, According to Patterson. Eisenhower, who was popularly known by the nickname Ike, had historically been very vague about his personal political views, claiming he had not registered with any party and had not even voted during his years as a military officer. This seems odd for a man regarded as a patriotic hero of American democracy, but Eisenhower almost made his nonparticipation seem high minded, As if actually taking part in the democratic process would somehow undermine a special role of political neutrality required of top military officers. However, in early 1952 Eisenhower at last broke his silence regarding his true political beliefs. He came out of the closet as a Republican and delighted the GOP's moderate faction when he stated that he would not object to being considered for the presidency. When supporters got Eisenhower's name onto the ballot in the New Hampshire Republican primary, the general defeated previous front runner, Senator Robert Taft of Ohio. Despite not having done any campaigning whatsoever up to that point, he didn't need to spend hours shaking hands in order to endear himself to voters. The American people already felt they knew him and trusted him. Not everybody was jumping onto the pro Eisenhower bandwagon, however. Understandably, some Republican Party activists resented the fact that loyal party life for Senator Taft, who is the son of a Republican president and whose nickname was Mr Republican, was being prevented from capturing the nomination by a military celebrity who had seemingly just become a Republican yesterday. There also was a strong ideological component to Taff supporters, opposition to the general's candidacy. Eisenhower had been talked into running for president by members of the moderate internationalist wing of the party, which was led by 1948 GOP presidential nominee Thomas Dewey of New York. The hard core conservative base favoring Taft was trying to win control over the party by arguing that Dewey's losses in 1944 and 48 had proven that wishy washy moderates were an electoral failure. The Taft Eisenhower rivalry also had a regional component because most of the Republican moderates were based on the East Coast. While much of the Midwest was a conservative stronghold, Eisenhower had grown up in the Midwest himself in Kansas, and he was a small C conservative man by disposition. But he wasn't strongly right wing in his politics. He was an establishment man who favored political stability and social order. He also was a strong believer in the Postwar international institutions like NATO and the United Nations. And he thought that the past flirtations Taft had had with isolationism showed poor judgment. Toe Eisenhower Post World War to America had to navigate a dangerous, interconnected global situation where cooperation among the nations of the so called free world was essential to check the power of the communist bloc. Ike was also a moderate on economic policy, favoring fiscal discipline but also accepting of the existing New Deal order. In the 1954 letter, he expressed his opinion that quote should any political party attempt to abolish Social Security, unemployment insurance and eliminate labor laws and farm programs? You would not hear of that party again in our political history, Close quote. His type of GOP philosophy skeptical of new reforms but affirming of popular existing government programs, became known at the time as modern Republicanism. Eisenhower's faction believed that a hard core anti new deal platform of benefit cuts and fiscal austerity could prove politically disastrous in a general election. After all, a GOP candidate had tried this back in 1936 and one just two out of 48 states. Eisenhower believed that the moderate economic approach of modern Republicanism was right in the sweet spot to persuade the mainstream of the American electorate before he could advance to the general election. Eisenhower still had to fend off the Republican Party's fiery right wing even after surviving the primaries, because Taff still had a lot of support among GOP delegates. Taft in Eisenhower had split the party primaries almost evenly, with Taft unsurprisingly strongest in the Midwest and Eisenhower. Prevailing in the Northeast and on the West Coast during the summer of 1950 to the Republican National Convention in Chicago was a contested affair, meaning that after the conclusion of the party primaries, it was still undecided who the party would choose as its candidate. Contested convention struggles for a presidential nomination hardly ever happened anymore, but they were very common for political parties in the mid 20th century. The various Republican delegates at the 1952 convention would have to reach a decision after multiple votes. Under complicated internal party rules, there were allegations of foul play by Eisenhower's camp that Senator Taft was using his power within the party organization to steal delegate votes that rightfully belong toe ike. Ultimately, the argument that Eisenhower's personal popularity made him the stronger general election candidate won the day. The pragmatic, moderate supporting Eisenhower within the party finally prevailed over Tafts conservative ideologues in the delegate fight, officially handing the 1952 Republican presidential nomination to the general. Eisenhower had to make a concession to conservative anti Communist voters at the convention in order to make sure the Republican base, including those who had preferred Senator Taft is the nominee, would turn out to support him in the November general election. For this purpose, he picked one of the young right wing firebrands in Congress, Senator Richard Nixon of California, as his running mate. Given Nixon's political background of red baiting, his opponents see Episode four, he was a natural in the role of the attack dog who did likes dirty work. And during the campaign, you would accuse Democratic nominee Adlai Stevenson of having a quote PhD from Dean Acheson is cowardly College of Communist Containment. Close quote. Nixon also brought regional balance to the ticket and could help, like, carry the populous state of California with its many electoral votes. However, during the campaign it appeared for a time that Nixon would be a political liability when a scandal broke involving improper fundraising. Patterson recalls in his book Grand Expectations that in 1950 to the press discovered that vice presidential candidate Nixon quote had a private political fund donated by wealthy California supporters. Close quote. This revelation angered Eisenhower because he hoped to run on having a cleaner, less corrupt government than Truman had allegedly tolerated. And Nixon scandal worked against that narrative. Nixon went on national television to defend himself, insisting that his family lived a modest middle class life and that he was not improperly using his office for personal gain. He also said that one of the donations that issue was a cocker spaniel sent to the family from Texas. With a note of outrage in his voice, Nixon said, Quote our little girl, Tricia, the six year old named it checkers and you know the kids love that dog, and I just want to say this right now, the regardless of what they say about it, we're going to keep it close. Quote. This was the Machiavellian political genius of Richard Nixon. He somehow turned a scandal about illegal donations into a scenario where his family was the victim and he was standing up to all the mean people who want to take away his Children's dog. And wouldn't you know it? It worked. Nixon would stay on the ticket and become vice president. Unfortunately, it wouldn't be the last time Dick Nixon would be appearing on national television to insist that he wasn't a crook. The Republican presidential ticket faced a serious political challenge and addressing the antics of controversial Senator Joe McCarthy, who is continuing his attacks on the loyalty of Democrats in 1952 labeling the Roosevelt Truman years as quote 20 years of treason as the Wisconsin senator had become politically popular nationwide, particularly with the conservative base of the GOP electorate, many Republicans saw little to gain and much to lose in speaking out against the man. Many in the Senate knew that McCarthy was an irresponsible opportunist who lacked factual substance behind his charges, but he was politically useful as a critic of the Truman administration sze legacy as he continued to attack Democrats as vulnerable to communist subversion. One of the very few senators who had demonstrated the courage to speak out against McCarthy very early on was also one of the very few women in high political office during this era. Senator Margaret Chase Smith, moderate Republican from Maine. In 1950 just a few months after McCarthy first became a political rock star. By making his wild allegations about communist infiltration of the U. S government, Smith issued a statement entitled Her declaration of Conscience. In it, she proclaimed quote, The nation's sorely needs a Republican victory. But I don't want to see the Republican Party ride to victory on the four Horsemen of calumny. Fear, ignorance, bigotry and smear. I doubt the Republican Party could simply because I don't believe the American people will uphold any political party that puts political exploitation ahead of national interest, Close quote. She eventually got a few other moderate Republican senators to sign onto this declaration, But the majority of Republicans were still afraid to publicly speak out against McCarthy. Whatever they may think of him in private people feared McCarthy would retaliate by making accusations about them. And they also feared losing the support of hardcore anti Communist voters who viewed the Wisconsin senator is a truth teller and an American hero. I can't resist pointing out that we're seeing similar political calculations today keeping politicians from speaking out against wrongdoing by members of their own party. The widespread reluctance to speak out against McCarthyism sadly demonstrates that congressional representatives, acting out of fear and political expediency rather than out of principle, is hardly unique to the current chapter of American history. Such cravenness occurred even during the 19 fifties, an era that has sometimes been romanticized as having a relatively wholesome and civil political conversation. In comparison with the present, Eisenhower had to figure out howto walk the political tightrope presented by Joe McCarthy's divisive reputation in 1952 and the general's own cunning strategic calculations would take priority over high minded principles. Ike would not be as courageous as Margaret Chase Smith, but he also would not embrace McCarthy and his allies. He wanted to have it both ways, simultaneously getting the support of conservatives who loved the pugnacious red baiter and the favor of moderates who disliked McCarthy style of political denunciation. He threaded the needle by saying that he approved of McCarthy's objectives but did not approve of his methods. In private, Eisenhower unambiguously disliked McCarthy, in part because the Wisconsin senator had unfairly attacked his old military men toward George C. Marshall. Nevertheless, Eisenhower did not hesitate to publicly shake McCarthy's hand and accept his endorsement during a campaign stop in Milwaukee. Having consolidated conservative Republican support, Eisenhower turned his focus to the general election. The Democrats nominated Adlai Stevenson, who held a powerful position as governor of Illinois but who lacked the strong national profile of Eisenhower. Stevenson was a patrician. He grew up in a wealthy family, and his grandfather, also named Adlai Stevenson, had been a Democratic vice president of the United States during the 18 nineties. Stevenson proved pragmatic and moderate in many respects, and he appease the southern wing of the party by picking John Sparkman from Alabama as a running mate. The activist left was distinctly uninspired by the 1952 ticket, as the Cold War clearly had shifted the Democratic Party to the right. Labor historian Nelson Lichtenstein notes that quote Stephenson's candidacy represented a retreat from even Truman's equivocal brand of fair deal liberalism. Stephenson didn't favor the repeal of Taft. Hartley opposed national health insurance and believed that civil rights legislation should be left to the states. Close quote. Patterson finds that quote. Stevenson and Sparkman, determined not to provoke another Dixiecrat walk out, ran on a platform that was considerably more conservative concerning civil rights than the one on which Truman was elected in 1948. For these reasons, Stevenson did not much appeal to the working class black ethnic urban coalition that Franklin Roosevelt had amassed and that Democrats needed in order to win national elections. Close quote. Nevertheless, those African Americans who did turn out to vote overwhelmingly located in the North because Jim Crow laws prevented them from voting in the South remained loyal to the Democratic Party and favored Stevenson over Eisenhower. Despite the fact that he had picked a pro segregation running mate in Sparkman, the national media widely regarded Stevenson as a brainy and intellectual candidate. Republicans attacked him is an egghead, and in this case it could be seen as a literal, if somewhat mean spirited description given his ob long shaped bald head. On the other hand, many Democrats considered his Polish and sophistication a breath of fresh air. After years of being led by rough around the edges, Missouri farm boy Harry Truman, perhaps surprisingly, even Truman himself seemed to share this opinion, McCullough reports. The Truman was overheard gushing to Stevenson. Quote Adlai, If a knucklehead like me can be president and not do too badly, think what a really educated, smart guy like you could do in the job. Close quote. According to Patterson, educated liberals quote adored Stevenson speeches, which he spent hours practicing before delivering with a polish and vocabulary that many intellectuals considered wonderful. Close quote. Adlai Stevenson may have been a favorite of intellectuals, but he lacked the common touch and the everyman quality that Eisenhower had. Stevenson definitely fell into the trap of getting painted as a know it all elitist. One famous anecdote about Adlai involves a woman approaching him after a rally and saying, Fantastic speech. You truly are the candidate of every thinking American. To which he allegedly quipped, Quote, That's not enough. I need a majority. Stevenson became the first among many unsuccessful Democratic presidential candidates for decades to come who fit a particular profile. Michael Dukakis, Al Gore and John Kerry would all be accused of being bookish and cerebral politicians who had public policy chops but who lacked likability and charisma. Eisenhower ran a slick and professional campaign with the powerful backing of the East Coast Republican establishment and its ties to the business community. He utilized professional admin to create an advertising campaign, the drum to the catchy slogan I Like Ike into Americans Brains through the use of appealing TV commercials, complete with animation and musical jingles. This was at the very moment where TV sets were booming in popularity and becoming common in middle class neighborhoods, Patterson recalls That quote, The number of households with TV sets has soared from around 172,000 in the 1948 campaign to 15.3 million in 1952. This was about 1/3 of households. Close quote. Eisenhower complained that it felt undignified to be marketed on TV like a common cleaning product, but the strategy didn't bother him enough to prevent him from going along with it. The Republicans invested $1.5 million into the TV advertising campaign for Eisenhower, and Patterson argues that quote use of advertising spots and of television coverage in general henceforth became an indispensable tool in American politics. Close quote. Adlai Stevenson, on the other hand, insisted that he never watched television, a position that Onley reinforced his image as an aloof elitist. Eisenhower managed to come across as a folksy, every man who combined the masculine, grabby toss of a military man with the paternal affability of a grandfather. He learned to play the back slapping, glad handing political game quite well, delighting audiences with his broad grin and upbeat personality. But many critics in the nation's intelligence CIA thought he contrasted negatively with Stevenson in terms of statesmanship. He was no great orator and was downright inarticulate at times, particularly when speaking off the cuff. Eisenhower's policy proposals were often vague. His solution to the Korean War stalemate was that he would personally go to Korea to find a solution. Most Americans trusted Eisenhower's capabilities in handling international conflicts, but it wasn't exactly clear what his precise plan waas There was a perception in some quarters that Eisenhower would be a weak president, a placeholder who enjoyed the prestige of being president as a nice capstone to his military career. While his advisers would do the actual work and run the executive branch. These impressions proved incorrect, as we shall see, and they were not widely held enough to dissuade the mass public from their affection for Eisenhower. Come Election Day 1952. It was pretty much a route in favor of the Republican ticket, as I even made inroads into the usually solidly Democratic American South winning states like Texas, Tennessee, Florida and Virginia. Adlai Stevenson in the Democratic ticket had only prevailed in nine out of the 48 states for the first time in 20 years. The presidency of the United States would be controlled by the Republican Party. Eisenhower support was so strong that it had congressional coattails, and the GOP surged into a narrow majority in both houses of Congress. The 52 Senate races also facilitated the emergence of two of the most powerful American political figures of the 19 sixties. In Arizona, two term Democratic incumbent Senator Ernest McFarland lost his seat to a conservative upstart Phoenix city councilman by the name of Barry Goldwater. McFarland had been the Senate majority leader so his defeat was embarrassing to the Democratic Party and forced it to scramble to find a new spokesman. Lichtenstein reports that losses in the North and West gave the southern Dixiecrat wing of the party more numerical voting power. Within its Senate delegation, this faction was able to select one of its own moderate Texas Senator, Lyndon B. Johnson, as the new Senate Democratic leader. Johnson would prove a gifted and ruthless legislative leader with a special ability to manipulate his fellow senators into voting the way he wanted them to. For this reason, biographer Robert Caro labeled him quote unquote master of the Senate. However, the ambitious Johnson at this time seemed to lack an ideological agenda outside of pragmatic self interest. Lichtenstein argues that this caused LBJ and his Democratic delegation to avoid direct conflict with the agenda of popular President Eisenhower for most of the 19 fifties. In our next full length episode, we will begin the story of the Eisenhower administration. One key thing to keep in mind about President Eisenhower is that his surface appearances could be deceiving, which often lead opponents to underestimate him. As president, he was perfectly fine with the American public, believing that he was just a genial, golf loving grandfather who let the country run on autopilot. In reality, Eisenhower was an intense type, a personality, a cunning strategist with an explosive temper who is completely in control of his administration. Patterson contends that quote Eisenhower was, in fact, considerably more ambitious, crafty and egotistical than most people recognized, and he took pains to protect his public image. Close quote. He was no philosopher president like Jefferson, Madison or Lincoln. He once quipped that an intellectual was quote a man who takes more words than are necessary to tell more than he knows. Close quote. But he was anything but a dummy. He had a keen mind for strategic and tactical maneuver. As the top World War two commander, he had supreme confidence in his ability to play the chess game of geopolitics in the Cold War era. Luckily for Eisenhower, the international situation during his first term would be somewhat calmer than it had been during Truman's second term. This good fortune, combined with his successful efforts to maintain stability and order at home, would make Eisenhower's era synonymous with the seemingly placid and prosperous 19 fifties at least for middle class white Americans in the nation's historical memory. But under the surface, pressures were building that would ultimately culminate in the political earthquakes of the 19 sixties. One of these involved a revolutionary ruling by the U. S Supreme Court during Eisenhower's first term regarding matters of civil rights for racial minorities. As we will reveal next time. When we discussed the year. 1953. From Boomers to Millennials is produced by Aaron Rodgers. 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