1952–“I Like Ike” Cartoon Ad
From COMM 458 student Sarah Martin:
For my first example of campaign rhetoric from the election of 1952, I elected to go with the obvious.One of the first things to come to mind when President Dwight Eisenhower is mentioned is the famous slogan “I like Ike.” Paired with that slogan in 1952 was this animated video in which a parade of people marches off to Washington, D.C. in a show of support for Eisenhower’s campaign. This campaign piece is still remembered to this day for its simplicity, its correct portrayal of his supporters, and its use of the mass media.
President Dwight Eisenhower’s nickname was Ike. Sometimes you just luck out, huh? In an era where the Korean War was losing support, the Cold War seemed to be heating up again, and President Harry Truman had a disapproval rating of 66 percent, people responded to the concept of ‘liking’ their candidate. Although it was simple, it was catchy and it corresponded well with his other slogan: “Korea, Communism and Corruption.” Because people had such strong feelings against those terms, liking Ike became a positive antithesis. And people really did seem to like him. He was a hero of WWII and later went on to lead the new NATO forces in Europe right before his run for president. So when he spoke on issues such as the Cold War or the Korean War people listened. Winning a decisive victory in the Electoral College in both of his races against Adlai Stevenson, Eisenhower remained a popular president and was even voted to be the “Most Admired American” in 1968 by a Gallup poll. So, simple as it may sound, people really liked him and, thus, the slogan stuck.
This short commercial was also successful because it accurately portrayed the excitement and dedication many of his supporters had for both Eisenhower and his campaign. The idea that a crowd would “take Ike to Washington” seemed to literally be the case. Anywhere he went, crowds were. He was known, at least during his campaigning for president, as a communicator who was able to connect with his audiences. While Adlai Stevenson often came across as pedantic, Eisenhower made sure to speak in a manner understandable to all. The fervor surrounding his campaign was evident even before the primary. The “I Like Ike” slogan started when people began attempts to “draft” him to run for presidency. Many did not like the other option in the Republican Party at the time, Robert Taft, senator from Ohio, and the movement gained so much strength that Eisenhower formed an advisory team and, subsequently, decided to run after Taft refused to support collective security with Europe. From the grassroots first convincing him to run for president to them sticking with him throughout the campaign, the portrayal of them in the video was dead on. They seemed to be in lockstep with his views and believed that a vote for him would be a vote for progress not seen during the twenty years of Democrat control, “Adlai goes the other way. We’ll all go with Ike.”
“I Like Ike” was created by a Madison Avenue executive (although I am sure not as good looking as Don Draper), written by the famous Irving Berlin (left), and produced by Roy Disney. Before turned into a commercial, it appeared in one of Berlin’s musicals (two years before he announced he would be running) and then sung by a Broadway actor at a rally for Eisenhower. Many call him the first major candidate to use campaign advertisements on television. After this, candidates would now have to be even more careful of image. By doing this advertisement in this way Eisenhower looked popular. Although his campaign used them as well, Stevenson seemed bitter at the success Eisenhower had with his advertisements: “The idea that you can merchandise candidates for high office like breakfast cereal is the ultimate indignity to the democratic process” (Stevenson, 1956). To me, this signifies the success Eisenhower had with them!
This piece of rhetoric exemplifies the 1952 election. Eisenhower was, in one sense, a common man, but he was so revered for his service that people idolized him. He appealed to the American sensibility and backed up his ideas with experience and credentials. In addition to an unsurpassed personal popularity, his simple eloquence in articulating his views was enough to catapult him to the White House.