TCNJ Magazine - Fall 2016

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16 FALL 2016 Your book gives General Dwight D."Ike" Eisenhower credit for being the first presidential candidate to fully leverage celebrities in a campaign, but you say that celebrities had been put into service by Republicans even earlier. DB: For Warren Harding 's campaign in 1920, Al Jolson brought about 50 Broadway stars and a marching band to Marion, Ohio. He would repeat the same thing in the White House for Calvin Coolidge's reelection [with the song "Keep Cool. Keep Coolidge"]. And Roosevelt enjoyed the support of stars across the country. But the broad-based, systematic use of celebrities started in 1952 with Eisenhower. What changed? In its infancy, television provided a new mechanism for the visualization of politics, and with its rise, Madison Avenue became much more powerful than it had ever been before. Ad agencies such as BBDO, Young & Rubicam, and J. Walter Thompson saw their billings go through the roof because they weren't just doing radio, magazines, newspapers, and bill- boards, but this new medium, television. Eisenhower was an atypical candidate. As the Supreme Commander of NATO living in Paris throughout the primary season, Eisenhower was drafted into the race and wasn't even able to campaign for himself. When there is no candidate, what do you do? You fill that space with people who are a draw: celebrities. What happens when he returns to the States? Eisenhower resigned his NATO commission in June 1952 and became a candidate, but his initial transition was a disaster. After all these politicians and celebrities had burnished his reputation for him, he returned to the United States and gave a speech from Abilene, Kansas. All the television networks showed this older man, now out of uniform, wearing a rumpled raincoat. It was very disappointing—even his campaign manager spoke about how disappointing it was. But eventually Eisenhower figured it out and the campaign took off. Who claimed Eisenhower was running a campaign based on sex appeal? Republican Senator Robert A. Taft's campaign manager, who declared that the nomination was not going to be won on "sex appeal" and not by a "glamour" candidate. He called Eisenhower a "good-looking mortician" who would bring about the death of the Republi- can Party. How did Adlai Stevenson, Eisenhower's Democratic opponent, approach the campaign? Although Eisenhower was initially uncomfortable with television, he came to see its enormous persuasive value. In contrast, Stevenson was very much opposed to television and really disliked the idea of Madison Avenue getting involved in the political process. His campaign accused Eisenhower of LIKING IKE: EISENHOWER, ADVERTISING, AND THE RISE OF CELEBRITY POLITICS (OXFORD), PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH DAVID BLAKE TELLS THE FASCINATING, METICULOUSLY RESEARCHED STORY OF HOW CAPITALIZING ON CELEBRITIES AND TV SWEPT IKE, AND SUBSEQUENT CANDIDATES, INTO OFFICE. IN MATT FURMAN

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