Nov. 2, 2012
Its the first election I can remember. I was just a second grader in 1952, but I knew who I wanted to be my president. The campaigns slogan was I Like Ike. In my family and in my grammar school, almost all of us liked Ike. This was eons before red state and blue state divisiveness. Even in liberal New York State, it seemed everybody liked Ike.
The campaign of 1952 was the first one to use TV ads. Supercilious folks frowned on selling the president like a soap flakes. Catchy jingles and cartoon figures of happy Americans marching behind the popular war hero horrified the chin-pulling media elites. Yes, even then we had liberal media elites. In those days, thats all we had.
It didnt matter. Dwight D. Eisenhower was an internationally known quantity. He had been a five-star general who commanded the Allied forces for the invasion of Normandy. It was Ikeeveryone called him thatwho took the huge risk of sending the largest invasion force in history to liberate a continent from Hitlers cruel grasp.
Unlike other famous generals from World War IIDouglas MacArthur and George Patton, for exampleEisenhower always had the common touch. He never failed to stress his simple Midwestern roots. Ikes Guildhall Speech accepting the keys of the City of London in 1945 will stand forever as a tribute to his plain-spoken decency and his eloquence.
Ike was sneered at by intellectuals of his day. They adored their cerebral candidate, Gov. Adlai Stevenson of Illinois. But Eisenhowers World War II memoirs, Crusade in Europe, have never been out of print. You have to go to the back shelves of university libraries to find slim and unchecked-out volumes of Stevensons deeper thoughts.
Eisenhower the candidate would have preferred having the Republican nomination offered to him. He would have liked to avoid having to campaign at all. He wanted to be elevated to the presidency as the great Gen. Washington wasby unanimous vote of the Electoral College.
He soon learned, however, that he would have to fight, and fight hard, for that Republican nomination. And, in a country still in the sway of Franklin D. Roosevelts powerful 12-year domination of politics, Ike had to reach out well beyond the ranks of the shriveled Republican Party. Ike didnt reject support from Democratic grassroots; he welcomed it.
The Eisenhower election campaign was a model how a political campaign should be run. His Electoral College total was 442-89. He garnered 55% of the popular vote. No one questioned the legitimacy of his victory. His landslide win brought the country together. Americans looked to Ike for leadership with hope and expectation.
Of late, We have become accustomed to seeing presidential campaigns run to win red states and blue states. We hear endlessly of battleground states and how only 10 or 11 states really matter in this contest.
Whether or not our favored candidate is elected next week, this red state/blue state thinking must be rejected. It is dangerous to the Union; it is harmful to the loser and the winner alike. It guarantees petty and shabby politics. It is unworthy of this Great Republic.
The Eisenhower victories of 1952 and 1956 were the models for the Reagan campaigns of the 1980s in which I was proud to take part. In those contests, too, the winning formula was to create a great national wave of support and to surf that wave to an overwhelming popular mandate. That would bring a commanding majority in the Electoral College.
There was no whining about the biased liberal press. Of course they are biased. They were biased in 1952. They were even worse in the Reagan campaigns. Both Ike and the Gipper serenely rolled over the media as they rolled over their opponents.
The best part: You didnt have to stay up late on election night. With Ike, with Ronald Reagan, you could go to bed early, and sleep soundly. The country was in good hands with these good men.