US Presidential Campaigns: 1952 - 1968
Thursday/September/16 2010 Filed in: Philosophy / World View
Something happened in the US during the 1950s and 1960s and it wasn't good.
The Great Experiment, born in the musket fire of the American Revolutionary War, had first faltered in the mid-1860s.
What emerged after the Civil War and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln was still viable but was not exactly what the often-called Founding Fathers had in mind.
And in the early years of the Cold War, what was left of the Great American Experiment faltered again.
Commercial military interests and their political lackeys began the slow, grinding shift that changed a nation once dedicated to peace -- at least in theory -- to a nation that for the next 50 years would support and pursue continuous war somewhere on the planet for profit and plunder.
President Eisenhower gave a stern warning that dark forces were afoot that might rob US citizens of their rights and freedoms.
And by the time the gunsmoke cleared in the late 1960s, a kind of second-amendment Tea Party bloodbath left as casualties a President, two Presidential candidates and two civil rights leaders.
The Great American Experiment had been replaced by something new, something different and hardly what Washington, Jefferson and Franklin had intended.
The presidential elections of the 1950s and 1960s offer special insight into this shift in the national, political zeitgeist.
The power and influence of television and media became a new reality no less powerful -- and in the end, arguably, more powerful -- than any -- or indeed all -- of the three branches of government laid out in the US Constitution.
1952: Eisenhower (55.2% of the popular vote) v. Stevenson (44.3%)
Dwight Eisenhower was a bona fide World War II hero.
He was the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces during the war and one of the masterminds who planned and executed the D-Day invasion that turned the tables on the German war machine.
In his first presidential campaign in 1952, Ike did what no successful candidate had ever done before in US history. He turned to television to connect with voters.
While Ike's face was popular in 1952, his opponent's face was not. Adlai Stevenson doesn't even show up in this televsion ad for the Democratic nominee.
Catchy song, eh?
1956: Eisenhower (57.4%) v. Stevenson (42%)
Four years later, Ike and Adlai were at it again.
This time Ike had the snappy song.
Once again, Stevenson was a no-show for his campaign commercial.
This may be the worst campaign ad ever. This spot has a better shot than Lunestra in putting you to sleep.
1960: Kennedy (49.7%) v. Nixon (49.6%)
It wasn't until the 1960 race that campaigners started to get good at using television to get across the message.
John F. Kennedy was pitched as a man "old enough to know what's right and young enough to do."
This ad is selling the JFK image big-time.
It appeals to emotions more so than logic.
Nixon took the more academic road, appealing to the head rather than the heart.
Ike didn't exactly help his ambitious VP out with this statement. Ouch!
1964: Johnson (61.1%) v. Goldwater (38.5%)
By 1964, the gloves were off.
Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater threw everything they had at each other, including nukes.
This Daisy ad was shown only a few times, but may have ensured LBJ's victory over extremist Goldwater.
Sounding eerily like one of today's Tea Partiers, Goldwater tried his best to top Johnson in scaring the bejeezus out of voters.
1968: Nixon (43.4%) v. Humphrey (42.7%) v. Wallace (13.5%)
By 1968, when Nixon once again emerged, he'd learned a thing or two about how to use television and imagery.
This ad looks like someone just stripped the jingle off the audio track for a Pepsi commercial and put in a Nixon voiceover.
Hey, is that Jerry Garcia in there somewhere?!
This time it was Humphrey who appealed to the head rather than the heart.
Prehistoric Tea Partier George Wallace came out swinging with both imagery and rationale for supporting his extremist agenda.
Hubert Humphrey lost the 1968 race by less than one percentage point of the popular vote.
Maybe Humphrey should have actually hired Foster Brooks as his campaign manager.