War Hero Is Elected President in 1952
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This is Doug Johnson. And this is Phil Murray with THE MAKING OF A NATION -- a VOA Special English program about the history of the United States.
America's presidential election campaign of 1952 probably opened on the day President Harry Truman said "no." He said he would not be a candidate for re-election.
In later years, Harry Truman would be called one of America's better presidents. Near the end of 1951, however, he had lost the support of many Americans.
The continuing war in Korea, and economic problems at home, had robbed him of much of his popularity. His Democratic Party needed a new candidate for president.
In the spring of 1952, Mr. Truman named the man he wanted the party to nominate. His choice was Adlai Stevenson, governor of Illinois.
Mr. Stevenson, however, said he was not interested in any job except the one he had.
It appeared that he meant what he said. Someone asked what he would do if the Democratic Party chose him as its presidential candidate. Mr. Stevenson answered, "I guess I would have to shoot myself."
So, President Truman and other party leaders discussed different candidates. Each one, however, seemed to have some political weakness.
The Republican Party also was discussing possible candidates. It was much easier for the Republicans to choose. Earlier, General Dwight Eisenhower had said he would campaign.
"Ike" Eisenhower was the hugely popular commander of Allied forces in Europe during World War Two. Many members of both parties wanted him as their candidate. General Eisenhower agreed to campaign as a Republican.
His closest competitor for the Republican nomination was Robert Taft, a senator from Ohio. He was the son of a former president, William Howard Taft.
Senator Taft sometimes was called "Mr. Republican." He had strong party support for his conservative policies. However, he did not receive enough votes at the party's national convention to defeat Eisenhower for the nomination.
In his acceptance speech, Eisenhower told the convention delegates that they had called him to lead a great campaign. He described it as a campaign for freedom in America and for freedom in the world.
Eisenhower chose Senator Richard Nixon of California as his vice presidential candidate. By that time, Mr. Nixon was known throughout the United States for his strong opposition to communism.
Earlier, as a member of the House of Representatives, he had led the investigation of a former State Department official, Alger Hiss. Hiss was accused of helping provide secret information to the Soviet Union. Hiss denied the accusation. He was never officially charged with spying. But he was tried and found guilty of lying to a grand jury and was sentenced to prison.
The Democratic Party held its national convention ten days after the Republicans. Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson welcomed the delegates. The words of his speech made it seem that he did not want to be a candidate for president. This made the delegates want him even more.
They voted two times. No one received enough votes to win the nomination. On the third vote, Governor Stevenson did. And he accepted. In his acceptance speech, he urged Democrats to campaign with honor.
After the conventions, a political expert wrote about the differences between Adlai Stevenson and Dwight Eisenhower. The expert said Stevenson was a man of thought, and Eisenhower was a man of action.
The Republican Party quickly employed an advertising company to help its candidates. Advertising companies mostly designed campaigns to sell products. In the presidential election of 1952, the company designed a campaign to "sell" Mr. Eisenhower and Mr. Nixon to the American public.
Eisenhower did not always agree with the company's advice. One time, he became very angry. He said, "All they talk about is my honesty. Nobody ever says I have a brain in my head!"
There was no question that the Democratic candidate, Adlai Stevenson, had a brain. He was known as an intellectual or "egghead". When he launched his campaign, he dismissed some traditional political advisers and replaced them with eggheads.
Communism was the biggest issue in the campaign. Governor Stevenson said America needed to guard against it. Yet he repeatedly criticized the actions of Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin. For years, the senator had been denouncing government officials and others as communists.
Eisenhower did not criticize McCarthy, even when the senator accused Eisenhower's good friend, General George Marshall, of being a traitor.
The Republican campaign went smoothly until someone discovered that Richard Nixon had received money for extra campaign costs. Some newspapers said Nixon should withdraw. That led to his famous "Checkers" speech.
Nixon made the speech on national television. In it, he defended his decision to keep a special gift from a political supporter. That gift was a dog, named Checkers. He said he kept the dog because his two little girls loved it.
The speech was a success. Thousands of voters told the Republican Party that Nixon should remain as the vice presidential candidate.
A few weeks before the election, Eisenhower made a powerful speech. He talked about ending the war in Korea.
DWIGHT EISENHOWER: "Now, where will a new administration begin. It will begin with its president taking a firm, simple resolution. That resolution will be to forego the diversions of politics and to concentrate on the job of ending the Korean War, until that job is honorably done. That job requires a personal trip to Korea. Only in that way could I learn how best to serve the American people in the cause of peace. I shall go to Korea."
Adlai Stevenson ended his campaign with a powerful speech, too. In it, he told of his vision of America.
I see an America where no man fears to think as he pleases, or say what he thinks. I see an America where no man is another's master -- where no man's mind is dark with fear. I see an America at peace with the world. I see an America as the horizon of human hopes.
The people voted in November. Eisenhower won almost thirty-four million votes. That was more votes than a presidential candidate had ever received. Stevenson won about twenty-seven million votes.
Dwight Eisenhower was sworn in as America's thirty-fourth president in January, 1953. He was sixty-two years old. Many problems awaited him.
Republicans had only a small majority in Congress. Many Republican lawmakers were very conservative. They probably would not vote for the new president's programs. The cost of living in America was rising. Senator Joseph McCarthy was still hunting communists. And the war in Korea was not yet over.
President Eisenhower did not seem troubled by these problems. After all, he had been called on many times to help his country.
Eisenhower came from a large family in Abilene, Kansas. His family did not have much money. He received a free university education when he went to the United States military academy at West Point, New York.
He remained in military service for many years. By the time the United States entered World War Two in 1941, he had become a top officer. In 1944, he led the allied invasion of Europe.
In 1950, president Harry Truman named him supreme commander of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
When Dwight Eisenhower ran for president, people shouted, "I like Ike!" Voters liked him because he always seemed calm, even in difficult situations. As the country's president, he would face a number of difficult situations. One of the first was the continuing war in Korea.
That will be our story next week.
This program of THE MAKING OF A NATION was written by Jeri Watson and produced by Paul Thompson. Stan Busby read the words of Adlai Stevenson. This is Phil Murray. And this is Doug Johnson. Join us again next week for another VOA Special English program about the history of the United States.