The Ordeal of Politics
T HE SCRIPPS-HOWARD "dry creek" complaint became the campaign's most memorable editorial. Its appearance that August had confirmed the trepidation surfacing in the Eisenhower ranks. More important than its accuracy was its threat to the unity the General was trying to achieve. Another fainthearted GOP candidacy, possibly even worse than an impotent "me-too" appeal, might jeopardize the success of the national ticket. Republican after Republican, particularly in the traditional Old Guard regions, where Taft was the hero, would be tempted to agree with Senator Jenner that the Eisenhower crusade should be ignored. Money and energy might be more profitably applied to enhancing local interests. From the start, Stevenson compounded such fears by using sharp wit and ridicule that dissected the undeniable weakness of the GOP. For the remainder of the campaign the General, prodded by continuing jabs from the Illinois Governor and plagued by his own inherent problems, was forced to suffer the controversies and endure the compromises that are the ordeal of politics. Such hazards of the middle of the road were something less than an automatic unification of the American public behind the General's "great crusade."
Starting with his welcoming address at Chicago, Eisenhower's opponent had launched a campaign that became notable for elegant prose. Ridiculing the Republican convention, Stevenson said, "For almost a week pompous phrases marched over this landscape in search of an idea. ...After listening to this everlasting procession of epithets about our misdeeds I was even surprised the next morning when the mail was delivered on time!"1 When he appeared before the delegates as their