1956–Man from Libertyville–Yana Ratushny
This commercial addressed many issues that Stevenson and his campaign team felt would be advantageous to point out. However, as the results of the election showed, Stevenson’s attempt to denounce Eisenhower failed. Issues such as family and the economy were the two main points addressed in this commercial.
Whether or not the President of the United States was a family man was always an important issue to the public. This commercial takes this idea and capitalizes on it by featuring his son and daughter-in-law. Stevenson, however, was divorced, making it more difficult for this portrayal to be believable. Eisenhower, on the other hand, was much more successful in his attempt to emphasize the family aspect. He was married to Mamie (who helped him in his campaign) and bore him two sons, one of which died due to scarlet fever. In addition to involving Stevenson’s family, other strategies were incorporated to make this commercial appeal to a bigger population.
Among these strategies was to make it look as if it was taped in that moment without any rehearsal. Eisenhower did the same in his commercials. The idea behind this pattern is to make each candidate seem as though they are everyday people that can relate to the average middle class family. In many of Eisenhower’s commercials, there are “average” people vouching for Eisenhower, saying he is just like them and makes decisions that benefit the everyday, average Joe.
The economy during Eisenhower’s presidency is brought to the people’s attention in this advertisement. Between the years of 1952 and 1956, there was a mixture of feelings on the economy. Between 1953 and1954 there was a mild recession which slowed growth. Unemployment was typically low during Eisenhower’s first term and inflation usually did not reach above two percent. During his presidency, personal income increased by 45 percent which allowed many families to buy new houses and other items such as televisions, which turned out to be a prominent form of advertisement, especially during the 1956 campaign. Although the majority of Americans enjoyed this prosperity, there were a good percentage of those who did not. Stevenson sheds light on the fact that any tax relief or other economic advantages that marked the prosperity which the Republicans talked about so much, was for the few and well-off. He points out that the elderly struggled with low income and had little tax relief and that the majority of Americans did not receive the same benefits that “the few” did.
Eisenhower came into his presidency in the midst of the Korean War, which he helped end by signing an armistice agreement. The Korean War started with the invasion of South Korea by North Korea in 1950. Officials in Washington speculated that the Soviet Union was behind the North Korean aggression. Given the Truman Doctrine, which stated the resistance of Soviet and communist aggression into other nations, then-President Truman decided that the best response was not just condemnation, but military assistance in South Korea to show the other Allied forces that the United States was committed to preventing Soviet aggression in other spheres of Europe and Asia. For the next three years, the United States military carried on a bloody war with North Korea and China, who had come to the defense of North Korea after the United States crossed their territory. In the 1952 election, candidate Dwight Eisenhower promised to end the war in Korea, which had become largely unpopular back home in the United States. In 1953, he was able to keep his promise. The economy following the war sunk into a recession, which lasted ten months. This recession was caused by poor fiscal policies and more money being funneled into national security during the war.
Among the criticisms that Stevenson made of Eisenhower, was the fact that Eisenhower was a “part-time President.” He gave him this title based on certain pertinent facts. There were many pictures of President Eisenhower golfing and engaging in other recreational activities during a time when he needed to be working on fiscal policies. Critics in the 1950’s described him as a “do-nothing” president. This was based on the premise that he chose a less aggressive path than his predecessor. Critics saw many of his policies as complacent and effortless but they ignored the strong economic growth of the 1950’s and the period of peace that the United States enjoyed. Eisenhower chose not to adopt policies that might have jeopardized the strong economy and instead took steps that stimulated it instead, such as the construction of the Interstate Highway System. Eisenhower was prompted many times to invest more into national security but he resisted such actions because he believed the nation’s military was strong enough.