Oral History Report on the Presidential Election of 1952
I mainly wanted to share this on the internet not for the historical data, but to help those who might be working on an oral history report. Essentially, an oral history report is an essay based on an interview of someone who had first hand experience with the historical topic. I think oral history is under rated these days, since we have the internet at our disposal. But at the end of the day, because history impacts so much of who we are, I believe that it is important to learn about it on a personal level. And as a side note, sorry about the odd formatting! Since this was a history class, I had to use the chicago format, which was kind of tricky. Enjoy!
The election of 1952 differs from current elections because it did not consist of much argumentation and conflict. It may not be a well-known historical event; however, it is considered to be a model election by Mr. Henry. Born in the 1940’s, Mr. Henry has lived through many historical events, and always has an exciting viewpoint to share. He knows both sides of many different debates because at different times in his life, he has argued for each side. The 1952 Presidential election was between the Republican candidate Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was born in Texas, and the Democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson. Mr. Henry’s explanation of the election of 1952 coincides with historical facts from outside sources. He continuously referred to the fact that presidential elections have drastically changed since 1952. Eisenhower won the election of 1952 primarily because of his military achievements and because of the American population’s pro-military beliefs. Mr. Henry believes that the management of future elections should change in order to become more like the election of 1952.
What do history books have to say on the election of 1952?
The American people elected Eisenhower after twenty years of Democratic control over the White House[i]. Truman did not run for re-election in 1952 because his approval rating was at a mere thirty percent[ii]. However, Truman set Adlai Stevenson up to become his successor as president before he left the scene[iii]. Eisenhower successfully carried the larger states, gaining many electoral votes[iv]. Both Eisenhower and Stevenson pioneered the use of radio and television ads for their campaigns[v]. Jingles such as “vote for Ike” and “love the gov” flooded radio and television[vi]. Both candidates traveled extensively around the United States. Eisenhower gained many supporters by promising to pull United States out of the Korean War[vii]. Eisenhower’s military success in World War Two attracted supporters. Eisenhower led the successful D-day invasion and became a four star general in 1943[viii]. People against the idea of communism voted for Eisenhower because Eisenhower’s running mate, Richard Nixon, exposed the notorious communist spy, Alger Hiss[ix]. Adlai Stevenson’s divorce three years prior to running for President sent conservatives over to the Eisenhower camp[x]. Liberals were upset that Stevenson chose John Sparkman, a segregationist, to be his running mate[xi]. Stevenson may have been the “darling of intellectuals”, but Eisenhower’s campaign struck a better tune with the beliefs of the majority of Americans in 1952[xii]. According to Henry, the election of Eisenhower was a big deal between Republicans and Democrats; however, there was not as much conflict between the two political parties as there has been in more recent presidential elections.
1Judith S. Baughman, "National Politics: Election 1952," in American Decades Ed. Judith S. Baughman, et al. Vol. 6: 1950-1959, (Detroit: Gale, 2001), 202-3.
4ipl2, “Dwight David Eisenhower,” http://www.ipl.org/div/potus/ddeisenhower.html accessed (February 27, 2012).
5Kennesaw State University, “1952: The Election of a Military Hero,” http://www.kennesaw.edu/pols/3380/pres/1952.html (February 27, 2012).
6Cynthia Rose, "Television Campaign Commercials," in American Decades Primary Sources Ed. Cynthia Rose. Vol. 6: 1950-1959, (Detroit: Gale, 2004), 234-8.
8Rose, “Television Campaign Commercials,” 234-8.
9Baughman, “National Politics: Election 1952,” 202-3.
11Rose, “Television Campaign Commercials,” 234-8.
12Baughman, “National Politics: Election 1952,” 202-3.
13 Mr. Henry, interview by Graham Townson, Frisco, TX, January 29, 2012.
What Mr. Henry had to say
While many people in 1952 were not interested in the outcome of the presidential election, Mr. Goforth’s family was very interested. They closely followed the presidential race and were upset when Stevenson lost the election because they were “hard-core” Democrats. The election of 1952 brought several changes. The main change, according to Mr. Henry, was the creation of interstate highways enabling increased military mobilization through the United States. Over the years, Mr. Henry’s political views changed. Now, he is “glad things worked out the way they did [in 1952].[i]” The 1952 election stands out to Mr. Henry because it enabled him to realize that, in 1952, the Republicans and Democrats were nowhere near as divided as they are in 2013. “In 1952, it was more a matter of who controlled the power than determining the future of the nation because Democrats and Republicans thought similarly on many issues”[ii]. Mr. Henry said, “Politics were not as fragmented, issues were not as acute. There was more compromise, and the nation was more unified [in 1952]. The contrast between presidential elections now and sixty years ago is profound. Then, it was a contest. Now, it is a battle”[iii]. People in the 1950’s believed that military readiness was necessary. Mr. Goforth agrees with scholarly sources, Eisenhower’s support of military readiness is the primary reason why the American people elected him. Mr. Henry thought that Stevenson lost the election because he was a politician and; “people were tired of politicians.[iv]” During the interview, Mr. Goforth stressed that United States should strive to return elections to the way they were in the 1950’s.
The historical facts outlined by Mr. Henry Goforth in his interview coincide with historical facts outlined in recorded history. Textbooks and history books do not normally go into great detail on the election of 1952. They simply provide the facts, and move on to the next event. This semi-obscure historical event is important to some people, such as Mr. Henry. A fact that Mr. Henry did not touch on was that the Republicans wanted to get the attention of women in order to gain their votes[i].
Researching a historical event should always involve both outside historical sources as well as interviews. History books are good for getting facts about a historical event. Interviewing someone who lived during the event uncovers valuable information that is not in history books. Historical facts are documented in books, yet true history is conveyed from generation to generation through face-to-face communication. It is important to realize how history impacts individuals on a personal level. Mr. Henry shared the facts as well as the emotions felt during the 1952 presidential election. Mr. Henry not only spoke about the general feelings in 1952, he also contrasted them with the current times.
Baughman, S. Judith. “National Politics: Election 1952.” in American Decades, edited by Judith S. Baughman, Victor Bondi, Richard Layman, Tandy McConnell, and Vincent Tompkins, Vol. 6: 1950-1959, 202-203. Detroit: Gale, 2001. Gale Virtual Reference Library (CX3468301906). Accessed February 27, 2012. http://go.galegroup.com.library.collin.edu/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CCX3468301906&v=2.1&u=txshracd2497&it=r&p=GVRL&sw=w.
Mr. Henry, interview by Graham Townson, Frisco, TX, January 29, 2012.
ipl2. “Dwight David Eisenhower.” Accessed February 27, 2012. http://www.ipl.org/div/potus/ddeisenhower.html.
Kennesaw State University. “1952: The Election of a Military Hero.” Accessed February 27, 2012. http://www.kennesaw.edu/pols/3380/pres/1952.html.
Rose, Cynthia. “Television Campaign Commercials.” in American Decades Primary Sources, edited by Cynthia Rose, Vol. 6: 1950-1959, 202-203. Detroit: Gale, 2004. Gale Virtual Reference Library (CX3490201107). Accessed February 27, 2012. http://go.galegroup.com.library.collin.edu/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CCX3490201107&v=2.1&u=txshracd2497&it=r&p=GVRL&sw=w.