Eisenhower and the American Crusades

By Herbert S. Parmet | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 15
Party Realities

I N RETROSPECT, THE certainty of the Eisenhower victory undoubtedly made the election a pro forma exercise. Some have even suggested that the results would have been virtually unchanged even if the two candidates had delivered each other's speeches, that the public saw the candidate as a heroic anti-war general and a football-coachlike political amateur with far more concern for honor, morality and dignity than personal ambition. Such thinking recognized that his party had chosen to gain an inevitable triumph rather than risk the candidacy of their real favorite, the safe conservative who was so representative of Republicans in the Eighty-second Congress. The common cliché was that "nobody could have beaten Ike."

Those realities became far more obvious once the returns were in that November night; but while the campaign was on, even the Eisenhower leadership was not regarded as invincible. After the spectacular Truman upset of 1948, few could dare be overconfident again. Furthermore, the country was still overwhelmingly Democratic. The Great Depression Generation constituted the majority vote. Notions that the General was merely a captive of big business might frighten them from placing a Republican in the White House. There was also the reality of Eisenhower's political inexperience. The tendency among those within the Eisenhower camp, therefore, was to underestimate his strength and worry that Stevenson's cultivated speeches would appeal to the mass of voters.1

In many ways they were right. While the General did have an instinctive sense of what was politic, he had never waged a political campaign. Expediency having forced him upon the party -- which was still not

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