I Like Ike
The Presidential Election of 1952
John Robert Greene
When the 1952 presidential election campaign began, many assumed it would be a race between Harry Truman, seeking his second full term, and Robert A. Taft, son of a former president and, to many of his fellow partisans, “Mr. Republican.” No one imagined the party standard bearers would be Illinois governor Adlai E. Stevenson II and Supreme Allied Commander in World War II, Dwight D. Eisenhower.. I Like Ike tells the story of a critical election fought between two avowedly reluctant warriors, including Truman’s efforts to recruit Eisenhower as the candidate of the Democrat Party—to a finish that, for all the partisan wrangling, had more to do with the extraordinary popularity of the former general, who, along with Stevenson, was seen to be somehow above politics.
In the first book to analyze the 1952 election in its entirety, political historian John Robert Greene looks in detail at how Stevenson and Eisenhower faced demands that they run for an office neither originally wanted. He examines the campaigns of their opponents—Harry Truman and Robert Taft, but also Estes Kefauver, Richard B. Russell, Averell Harriman and Earl Warren. Richard Nixons famous “Checkers Speech,” Joseph McCarthy’s anti-Communist campaign, and television as a new medium for news and political commercials—each figured in the election in its own way; and drawing in depth on the Eisenhower, Stevenson, Taft and Nixon papers, Greene traces how.
“With fresh eyes and insights, Greene presents a well-organized account of the primary elections, the two national nominating conventions, and the contest between the beloved WWII hero, Republican Dwight Eisenhower, and the intellectual governor of Illinois, Adlai Stevenson.”
“Using primary and secondary sources with aplomb, Greene has produced an excellent work, one that should stand the test of time for its accuracy and interpretation of this important postwar election.”
—Library Journal (starred review)See all reviews...
“John Robert Greene tells the story of a presidential election that seems remarkably familiar. It features a Republican nominee who had never before sought political office and who had no previous connection to the GOP running against an experienced Democratic nominee, who seemed far more comfortable with complex policy issues. Greene examines how the Republican candidate used a new electronic medium to reach voters, even while simplifying his message. And he concludes that issues mattered less than the passion that the Republican candidate inspired. Sound familiar? Greene, however, is writing about the election of 1952, in which a newcomer to politics, Dwight D. Eisenhower, overwhelmed the eloquent governor of Illinois, Adlai Stevenson, while using the new medium of television to run the first 20-second presidential campaign commercials. With a keen eye for a revealing piece of evidence or a telling anecdote, Greene explains how Ike’s popularity translated into a landslide victory at a time when millions of voters were tired of “the mess in Washington.” I Like Ike is a book that anybody interested in politics—in the 1950s or today—can read with enormous benefit.”
—Chester Pach, associate professor of history, Ohio University
“One nominee who was the classic organization candidate and another who was a strikingly unpartisan outsider, yet both nominations made, not just ratified, at their national party conventions. In an election contest that was evidently deviant from, rather than diagnostic of, its predecessors and its successors. The presidential election of 1952 was thus so near to, and yet so far from, the presidential contest of 2016. I Like Ike: The Presidential Election of 1952 walks the reader carefully and richly back through all of that: Eisenhower versus Stevenson and the downfall of the delegate leaders for their respective nominations in a contest proving that the new Democratic majority was not invincible but one that Republicans would not replicate for a long time to come. And on top of all that, an election which, despite its partisan deviance, established the Cold War electoral world for a very long time. I Like Ike brings it all to life in lively but comprehensive detail.”
—Byron E. Shafer, Hawkins Chair of Political Science, University of Wisconsin
“In his new and persuasive account of the election, Greene presents a more complicated view of Eisenhower and Stevenson, and, with a far greater sense of duty and patriotism than allowed for in his earlier view of the two men. And Greene writes with the style of a top-notch investigative reporter.”
—Burton I. Kaufman, author of The Post-Presidency from Washington to ClintonSee fewer reviews...
I Like Ike is a compelling account of how an America fearful of a Communist threat elected a war hero and brought an end to twenty years of Democrat control of the White House. In an era of political ferment, it also makes a timely and persuasive case for the importance of the election of 1952 not only to the Eisenhower Administration, but also to the development of presidential politics well into the future.