1952–Stevenson’s Song Ads
From COMM 458 student Sarah Martin:
I Love the Gov—“I’d rather have a man with a hole in his shoe/Than a hole in everything he says./I’d rather have a man who knows what to do/When he gets to be the Prez./I love the Gov’, the Governor of Illinois./He is the guy that brings the dove of peace and joy./When Illinois the GOP double-crossed,/He is the one who told all the crooks, “Get lost.”/Adlai, love you madly,/And what you did for your own great state,/You’re gonna do for the rest of the 48./Didn’t know much about him before he came,/But now my heart’s a ballot that bears his name./’Cause listen to what he has to say,/I know that on election day,/We’re gonna choose the Gov’ that we love./He is the Gov’ nobody can shove./We’ll make the Gov’ president of the you, the me and the U.S.A.”
Music Man–“Vote Stevenson, Vote Stevenson/A man you can believe-in-son./From Illinois whence Lincoln came,/His leadership has won him fame./A soldier man is always found/To think in terms of battlegrounds/But Stevenson, Civilian-son,/Will lead us till the peace is won”
Just by glancing at the map of the Electoral College votes from the 1952 election, it is noticeable that it was a pretty decisive victory in favor of Dwight Eisenhower over Adlai Stevenson. Although the popular vote turns out to be closer than it would have seemed from the Electoral College votes (Eisenhower’s 54.9% to Stevenson’s 44.4%), there was one demographic that Eisenhower was especially popular amongst. According to Kennesaw State University, more women than men voted for Eisenhower. In fact, Eisenhower earned over a ten-point advantage over Stevenson for the female vote making this election a notable one according to an article by Gallup.
When I stumbled across a series of videos starring a scantily clad woman singing songs entitled “I Love the Gov,” and “Music Man,” I had to stop and wonder the motives of this rhetoric. I believe that these pieces were designed to drive home points about his experience, create the illusion of a visible female backing, and to appeal to a more “everyman” crowd.
In both “I Love the Gov” and “Music Man” this same woman (who I could not, despite many different searches, find any information on) sultrily belts out tidbits on his credentials to be president. She ensures that her audience knows that she “love[s] the Gov’, the Governor of Illinois,” and that we know that is “from whence Lincoln came.” As governor, he was popular. He was most notable for his improvement of state highways and being a friend to the police. When the current president, Harry Truman, decided he would not seek reelection (possibly due to the fact that his disapproval ratings were in the high 60 percent range), Stevenson’s popularity caused a “Draft Stevenson” movement in the Democrat party; this was the year of drafting candidates! It led to his nomination and acceptance of the nomination at the Democratic National Convention. This advertisement was more than likely trying to piggyback on the popularity Stevenson had within his own party: Democrats did believe he was a man you could “believe in…son.”
A hint of cleavage. This is what is visible on this 1952 century songstress. That may even produce some scandal in a modern campaign. So, why her? My belief is that he wanted to give the impression of having varying demographics represented in his campaign rhetoric. This could be a result of Eisenhower’s popularity among females. With her, it makes it seem that at lease one woman is, well, attracted to his intelligence and influence. According to Kennesaw State University, the issues Stevenson was campaigning for were not as pertinent to the everyday lives of woman as Eisenhower’s stumping for stronger families and even used imagery tailored to females, “He implied that if housewives could balance the household budget, then so could the government. Ike felt Washington could be cleaned out again as a woman cleans house” (KSU). The Stevenson campaign could have been trying to create interest from women if they saw a seemingly strong, independent woman belting out tunes in favor of him. Or, maybe, Stevenson was trying to attract more men to the campaign with, what else, a hint of breasts. Either way, Stevenson was trying to appeal to someone.
More generally, that “someone” could be the “everyman” that Eisenhower just naturally attracted. While Eisenhower was in tune with his audience and able to connect through family based, simple examples, Stevenson was not. In fact, that was not his strong suit to the point where he was given the nickname of “egg head” due to his baldhead and his pedantic speaking. To say these two videos have elementary lyrics is an understatement. Perhaps this was a way to insert himself more into mainstream, popular culture, because, do not forget: “Stevenson, civilian-son, will lead us till the peace is won.”
These songs really do try their darndest to be catchy. However, today and, most likely back then, it comes across as trying too hard. Although Stevenson was attempting to appeal to a larger audience than what his pedagogic speaking style could afford him, this first foray into television advertisements was not as successful as “I Like Ike” from my previous post (still stuck in my head after a week!). Stevenson is oft referred to as having been “too smart” for the American public to be received well (I will ignore the insult that provides to Eisenhower). Maybe he should have embraced that trait in his commercials because nothing could have outdone “Get in step with Ike.” Yes, that even includes “But now my heart’s a ballot that bears his name.”