The Crusade: The Presidential Election Of 1952

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




David Bennett


Eisenhower, Stevenson, American history

Subject Categories

United States History


The administration of Dwight D. Eisenhower has been the subject of historical revision for the last decade. This revision has not yet extended itself to the Presidential election of 1952. Both Eisenhower and his opponent, Adlai E. Stevenson, are still regarded as men who accepted the challenge of the presidential arena only when it was thrust upon them. Both men are also viewed as being somewhat out of touch with their own campaigns. The triumph of Eisenhower is still viewed by most historians as a result of his charming personality and his hero's image.

Such interpretations seem to underrate the political abilities of both Eisenhower and Stevenson. This dissertation seeks to correct this perception. It is suggested that both Stevenson and Eisenhower wanted to win their party's nomination, but that they were shrewd enough to recognize that the voters were more receptive to a candidate who was 'above politics.' They therefore did not interfere with groups that were pushing their candidacies, but they continued to state that they did not want the job. This is defined in this dissertation as "non-participant politics."

The pre-convention campaigns, however, showed the limitations of non-participant politics. Because of the strong challenge of Robert Taft, the republican convention centered not on a draft of the General, but on an issue which the Eisenhower forces skillfully manipulated to their advantage. Because of the strong challenge of Estes Kefauver, Stevenson's nomination was finally engineered not by his supporters, but by Harry Truman.

A study of the fall campaign shows that Eisenhower was by far the more politically adept of the two, and proved to be a very adept campaigner. He made shrewd judgements, and was able to compromise his personal beliefs for the good of the campaign. Stevenson, however, was less able to compromise on the same issues. No less in control of his own campaign, he chose nevertheless to speak his true feelings, whether or not his feelings were politic.

Dwight Eisenhower won the presidential election of 1952 for a number of reasons, not the least of which were his abilities as a politician. It was, as the Republicans charged in 1952, 'time for a change.' But one of the major purposes of this dissertation is to show that it was the political sagacity of Eisenhower that made the American people want to change to him.


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