Eisenhower Answers America: The First Political Advertisements on American TV (1952)

Going into the 1952 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, the Democ­rats had held the White House for near­ly twen­ty years. FDR took office in 1933, begin­ning the first of twelve years in office. Then Har­ry S. Tru­man led the nation for near­ly anoth­er eight years. Dur­ing that time, Amer­i­ca endured a lot. War, eco­nom­ic depres­sion, and more war — some hot, some cold. By the time the 1950s rolled around, Amer­i­cans were tired and ready for a change.

In the 1952 elec­tion, we find Adlai Steven­son, the reluc­tant Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­date, squar­ing off against Dwight D. Eisen­how­er, the war hero who had led Amer­i­can troops to vic­to­ry in Europe, instant­ly becom­ing the “most admired liv­ing Amer­i­can” (accord­ing to opin­ion polls). Eisen­how­er, it turns out, knew how to win elec­tions as well as wars. In ’52, Ike aired the first ad cam­paigns on tele­vi­sion. Called Eisen­how­er Answers Amer­i­ca, the ads fea­tured “every­day” Amer­i­cans ask­ing ques­tions about the issues of the day — the war in Korea, infla­tion, high tax­es, etc. PBS has a well-researched intro­duc­tion to this inno­va­tion in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics, while the nice­ly-curat­ed web site, The Liv­ing Room Can­di­date, offers a rich col­lec­tion of cam­paign com­mer­cials aired between 1952 and 2008.

You can watch three ads from Eisen­how­er Answers Amer­i­ca above and below.

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  • bobby jones says:

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