The Spectacle is Over

The Spectacle is Over

To nobody’s surprise, the amiable man of limited educability and his venomous protege won themselves a thumping victory. Ike, the charismatic non-leader, “manifested” himself here and there, brought his magic aura with him, smiled and tranquilized a restive people. While fantastic eruptions were taking place in other parts of the world, the United States continued to behave predictably, if somewhat peculiarly. It now appears that no combination of circumstances could have stopped Eisenhower from being re-elected. He was a sure thing in prosperity or depression, peace or war, and one almost feels, dead or alive. The personal magnetism of a man who can turn any political condition to advantage is an awesome thing, and widespread worship attendant upon it deserves to be called Ikenology. The specific image is apparently irrelevant; its features, though always radiant, are infinitely plastic. Ike soothes the people as a prince of peace—and thrills them to the point of paroxysm when he brings not peace but a sword. The Republicans said, “A vote for Stevenson is a vote for Eastland.” They were right. The Democrats said, “A vote for Ike is a vote Dickie.” And they were right. So now we have both Dickie and Eastland. It takes an ingenious electoral system to achieve such results. But there were others, generated not so much by the good sense of voters who had suddenly become judicious ticket-splitters, as by the campaign itself.

For some time the Democrats thought they had discovered one chink in Ike’s armor. The Administration promised to cut back on military expenditures, and actually did so. Its ineffable Secretary of Defense was eloquently threatening to go even farther in the same direction. The situation gave Senator Symington, himself a Presidential aspirant, material enough for the electrifying speech he delivered a hundred times in the last session of Congress. And it provided his party with an issue. Democrats were expressing deep alarm— none more so than Adlai who started out in good voice on this theme—over the “irresponsible” reduction in our air force and in the size of our standing army. Ike remained adamant in his conviction that the world could be blown up with fewer wings in the Air Force, and with the army largely converted into an elite guard of technicians to guide intercontinental ballistic missiles. His opponents, such as they were, claimed that he was jeopardizing American security. This position, on top of his conciliatory attitude at Geneva, even endeared him to an odd trio of supporters: Henry Wallace, Harry Bridges and I. F. Stone (the “Eisenhower Marxist” who later defected to Stevenson).

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