On Women and Power:
Pat and the Pink Lady
I am confronted with an unusual situation. My opponent is a woman.... There will be no name-calling, no smears, no misrepresentation in this campaign.
—RICHARD NIXON, 1950 1
WHEN NIXON RAN FOR THE SENATE in 1950 against Congresswoman Helen Gahagan Douglas, it became apparent shortly after the primary that he would not treat her gently, as he had Priscilla Hiss. Although he promised a clean campaign, especially because his opponent was a woman, and insisted even in his memoirs "I knew that I must not appear ungallant in my criticism of Mrs. Douglas," 2 this was the most vicious campaign of his political life. Even the friendly Earl Mazo called it "the most hateful" California had experienced in many years. 3
The Hiss case had put Nixon securely on the ladder to the top in politics, and had hardened his conviction that destructive attack was the certain way to victory. "Throughout the campaign I kept her pinned to her extremist record," he said, 4 and indeed he treated Helen Douglas as if she were an exotic red butterfly. Actually her record was that of a left-wing Democrat, hewing for the most part close to the party line laid down by Harry Truman. This record Nixon distorted into a pro-Communist stance even more than he had that of Voorhis. His speeches, moreover, were laced with contempt not for "the woman" but for the idea of the actress as senator. And at the end of the campaign, as his radio director Tom Dixon described it, "in almost every statement he made it was Helen Gahagan Douglas and Alger Hiss.... He got the two together somehow, ingeniously. He never beat her. Alger Hiss beat her." 5