Home > 1932-1964 Campaigns, 1956 Campaign > 1956–Ike & Football–Yana Rutushny

1956–Ike & Football–Yana Rutushny

When Eisenhower ran for re-election in 1956, there was little doubt that he would win. The economy was stable and people were prospering after Eisenhower ended the war with North Korea, winning him a lot of respect and points with the American people. The 1956 election was the first election to use TV commercials as its main medium for campaigning. Almost fifty percent of the American population had a TV in their home and therefore it was an influential campaigning tool. In the prior election, TV advertisements were used for the first time but the campaigning involved thirty-minute long programs advertising the presidential candidate. These thirty-minute long programs evolved into five-minute commercials in the 1956 election.

This commercial addresses the fact that Adlai Stevenson did not have extensive experience in war, whereas Eisenhower did. Eisenhower served in the army and was then appointed as Supreme Commander of NATO forces in 1951. Stevenson did however, have experience in foreign affairs. Stevenson was special assistant to the secretary of the Navy during World War II. In 1945 he worked with the State Department and helped in the organization of the United Nations, serving as an advisor to its first American delegation.

Despite this list of credentials, Stevenson did not have Eisenhower’s popularity. To combat this obstacle, Stevenson argued that Eisenhower’s policies ignored or poorly addressed issues such as nuclear testing, reducing East-West tension, ending the draft and increasing assistance to underdeveloped countries through United Nations aid. Fortunately for Eisenhower he was able to prove his ability to handle foreign conflicts pragmatically. Right before the election, Eisenhower had to deal with two crises. Israel, Britain, and France led a secret attack on Egypt in retaliation to Egypt’s decision to nationalize the Suez Canal.  Eisenhower condemned this action because he was not consulted and the attack was not very democratic. His condemnation for the allied forces attack resulted in nationwide support for Eisenhower.

The next crisis that Eisenhower had to deal with within a few days of the attack on Egypt was the Soviet invasion of Hungary. This occurred in the midst of the Cold War, which was marked by increased tensions between the United States and Russia. Both the United States and the Soviet Union were continuously developing nuclear arms and considered. The Soviet Union was expanding throughout Europe and Asia and had gained control and influence over many regions in Europe such as Poland and eastern Germany. The West had a strong policy of resistance against Soviet/Communist expansion (the Truman Doctrine) until 1953, when both nations developed the hydrogen bomb. Therefore, in order to prevent nuclear war, the Soviet Empire and the United States began working to improve relations. In October of 1956, the Soviets invaded Hungary and suppressed opposition through military force. Although Eisenhower condemned this action and provided aid to Hungarians that were misplaced from the Soviet attack, he avoided getting involved militarily. Eisenhower’s pragmatic decision won him many votes.

Stevenson’s lack of military experience and the possibility that he would lead the country into war are main claims made by this advertisement. Since the end of the Korean War brought prosperity and happiness to most Americans, they did not want to see the United States embark on another war and Eisenhower capitalized on that point. In this video, there are several civilians giving statements about why they want to keep Eisenhower in office. Two of the speakers are mothers of young veterans of the war and a few of the other speakers are older veterans. The use of women in this video was a clever way to appeal to those families who sons served in the Korean War.

Throughout the advertisement, Stevenson is portrayed as an inexperienced candidate that would sooner lead the country into war than continue the peace and prosperity the U.S. was experiencing.

Towards the end of the commercial, the main speaker in the commercial appeals to the voters directly. He tells voters that they were responsible for taking the U.S. out of Korea because they made the decision to make Eisenhower president. The American public is told that they did it the first time therefore they can continue to make good decisions and re-elect Eisenhower. This commercial gives a lot of credit to the voters for the fate of this country and makes them feel as though they are the ones in control of the government.

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