The Eisenhower Era, 1952-1960

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Chapter 38: The Eisenhower Era, 1952-1960 |

The Advent of EisenhowerAmerican people found themselves in the 1950s dug into the Cold War abroad and dangerously divided at home over the explosive issues of communist subversion and civil rightsDemocratic prospects in the president election of 1952 were blighted by the military deadlock in Korea, Truman’s clash with MacArthur, war-bred inflation, and whiffs of scandalDemocrats nominated Adlai E. Stevenson (governor of Illinois) while the Republicans enthusiastically chose General Dwight D. Eisenhower (and paired him with Richard Nixon)Eisenhower was already the most popular American of his time (television politics, credentials)Eisenhower left the rough campaigning to Nixon, but reports surfaced of a secret “slush fund” that Nixon had tapped while in Senate and he made a “Checkers speech” that saved himNixon and Eisenhower both embraced the new technology of the black-and-white televisionThis new medium was a threat to the historic role of political parties (political communication)Eisenhower cracked the solid South wide open and ensured GOP control of the new Congress “Ike” Takes CommandEisenhower visited Korea in December 1952 but could not budge the peace negotiations; only after Eisenhower threatened to use atomic weapons seven months later was an armistice finally signed but was repeatedly violated in the succeeding decadesThe fighting lasted three years and about fifty-four thousand Americans died and more than a million Asians were dead but only Korea remained divided at the thirty-eighth parallelEisenhower had a leadership style that projected sincerity, fairness, and optimism; his greatest asset was his enjoyment of the affection and respect of the citizenryHis immense popularity was used for a good cause (social harmony and civil rights) The Rise and Fall of Joseph McCarthyOne of the first problems Eisenhower faced was the swelling popularity and swaggering power of anticommunist crusader Senator Joseph R. McCarthy who crashed into the limelight with the charge that scores of known communists worked in the State Department (failed to prove)McCarthy’s Republican colleagues realized the usefulness of this kind of attack on the Democratic administration; McCarthy saw the red hand of Moscow everywhereMcCarthy flourished in the Cold War atmosphere of suspicion and fear; he was surely the most ruthless red-hunter and damaged the American traditions of fair play and free speechThe careers of countless officials, writers, and actors were ruined after he named themOpinion polls showed that a majority of the American people approved of McCarthy’s crusadeEisenhower, in effect, allowed him to control personnel policy at the State DepartmentMcCarthy crossed the line by attacking the US army; soldiers fought back in televised hearings and the Senate formally condemned him for “conduct unbecoming a member” (“McCarthyism”) Eisenhower Republicanism at HomeGeneral Eisenhower entered White House in 1953 pledging his administration to a philosophy of “dynamic conservatism”—balance the federal budget and guard the Republic from socialismEisenhower supported the transfer of control over offshore oil fields from the federal gov’t to the states; he tired to curb the TVA by encouraging private companies to competeIn Operation Wetback, as many as 1 million Mexicans were apprehended and returned to Mexico due to pressure from Mexican gov’t over illegal Mexican immigration (braceros)Eisenhower sought to cancel the tribal preservation policies of “Indian New Deal”—proposed to terminate the tribes as legal entities and revert to assimilationist goals of the Dawes Act of 1887Eisenhower pragmatically accepted and legitimated many New Deal-like programsIke backed the Interstate Highway Act of 1956, a $27 billion plan to build 42,000 miles of highways; benefits to industries, exacerbated air quality, and proved disastrous to citiesEisenhower balanced the budget only three times in his eight years...
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