Holding the Line: The Eisenhower Era, 1952-1961

Holding the Line: The Eisenhower Era, 1952-1961

Holding the Line: The Eisenhower Era, 1952-1961

Holding the Line: The Eisenhower Era, 1952-1961

Synopsis

Alexander sees the characteristic feature of the Eisenhower era as an effort to "hold the line" -- against Communism, against big government, against intellectual challenge, against disruptive social change. The period 1952-1961 is examined in trenchant detail by the author, who focuses on domestic politics and foreign policy but also examines economic, social, intellectual, and cultural aspects of the period. He scrutinizes such features of the fifties as McCarthyism, the Korean conflict, Dulles's system of global alliances, the early involvement in Vietnam, the economic boom, the appearance of giant conglomerates, the emergence of Black protest, the gathering crisis of the cities, and the impact of the mass media on popular culture. This book is lively enough for general readers and students of American history since the Second World War, yet probing and scholarly enough to interest specialists.

Excerpt

Although Dwight D. Eisenhower was not flamboyant, not an inspirational or charismatic leader, not one who stirred great popular passions, in his own way he dominated American life during the years 1952-1961 as much as more vigorous and colorful Presidents like Andrew Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Franklin D. Roosevelt had dominated earlier periods. This book is an effort to survey and interpret those years, a span of time that can justifiably be termed the Eisenhower era. While the period after 1952 has received relatively little concentrated attention from professional historians, there does exist -- in the writings of many journalists and memoirists, in most analyses by political scientists, and in general treatments of recent United States history -- something of an orthodox or traditional view of Eisenhower and his administration. According to this view, the only Republican President between 1933 and 1969 was a genial, well-meaning, but indecisive and basically out-of-touch chief executive, whose performance fell far short of that of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, his Democratic predecessors, or John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, his Democratic successors. The Eisenhower administration -- characteristically depicted as standpattist in domestic affairs, unimaginative in its foreign policy, and neglectful of the nation's defenses -- supposedly constitutes a stifling interlude in the three and a half decades of high drama which began with Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal and ended in the debris of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. A study of the Eisenhower administration, one of my friends has suggested, might well be entitled "The Mild Bunch."

I did not set out consciously to overturn this common in-

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