Mudslingers: The Top 25 Negative Political Campaigns of All Time : Countdown from No. 25 To No. 1

By Kerwin C. Swint | Go to book overview
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7
TRICKY DICK VERSUS THE PINK LADY

Richard Nixon v. Helen Gahagan Douglas, U.S. Senate,
California, 1950

No figure in American history has a more tarnished image than Richard M. Nixon. After all, how do you come by a nickname like Tricky Dick? In his case, it was a well-earned trophy. Through years of Machiavellian-type political shenanigans, both in political campaigns and in public office, Nixon operated as though his life were at stake. Losing was just not an option.

By the time of the 1950 U.S. Senate campaign, Nixon had already gained a national reputation. As a member of the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities in the late 1940s, he played a leading role in the investigation of Alger Hiss, a former State Department employee accused of espionage for the Soviet Union. Hiss was convicted, and Nixon went on to become a rising star in the ranks of the anticommunist wing of the Republican Party.

Helen Gahagan Douglas was also a member of Congress from California. The wife of Hollywood actor Melvyn Douglas, she came from the world of theater and movies. Both she and her husband were politically active, cofounding a Hollywood anti-Nazi league and championing socially conscious causes. Although clearly not a communist herself, she and her husband grew close to a number of politically active Hollywood types that were active in communist circles, which formed the basis of Nixon's intensely negative campaign tactics against her.

This campaign took place near the beginning of the Red Scare of the 1950s, when the fear of communism was at its height. Communists, and potential communists, were rooted out and considered enemies of the United

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