My latest reading of Irwin Gellman's The Contender: Richard Nixon, The Congress Years, 1946-1952 was about Richard Nixon's 1950 campaign for the U.S. Senate against Democrat Helen Gahagan Douglas. A big issue in that campaign was on whether or not Douglas was soft on Communism.
One issue was the
House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), which Douglas
opposed. Douglas said, "Of course traitors should be brought to
justice, but we should and must end once and for all these despicable
attempts to use the red smear to stampede the American people into
reaction" (page 302). She also stated, "I will not sacrifice the
liberty of the American people on the altar of hysteria erected by those
without vision, without faith, without courage, who cringe in fear
before a handful of crackpots and their traitorous Communist cronies"
(page 313). Douglas "proposed a citizens' commission on Un-American
Activities headed by Eleanor Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover" (Gellman's
words on page 302). At the same time, she indicated that she
felt that there were already laws on the books and legal machinery that
were adequate for ridding security risks from the U.S. Government. Such
a sentiment was also held by U.S. Attorney General J. Howard McGrath,
who said that HUAC was unnecessary because the FBI "was sufficient to
investigate Reds" (Gellman's words on page 325). McGrath also
claimed that the Justice Department rather than HUAC deserved the credit
for exposing Alger Hiss, a claim that Nixon did not buy! While Douglas
maintained that she was for getting rid of security risks in the U.S.
Government, Nixon cited a 1946 statement in which Douglas said that "We
all know communism is no real danger to the U.S." (page 326).
Another issue was Congressman Vito Marcantonio of
New York. Marcantonio was believed to have Communist associations,
although he himself was not a member of the Communist Party.
Marcantonio opposed HUAC, the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan on
account of "its anti-Russian implications" (Gellman's words on page
307), and aid to Chiang Kaishek. Meanwhile, Marcantonio never
spoke against Joseph Stalin's foreign policy. What did Marcantonio have
to do with the Nixon-Douglas race for Senate in 1950? Well, Nixon was
pointing out that Douglas in the U.S. House had voted with Marcantonio
an overwhelming number of times (354 times to be exact), agreeing with
him on issues pertaining to the fight against Communism. Douglas
responded, however, that there were times when Nixon had voted with
Marcantonio----in opposing aid to South Korea and in reducing funds to
NATO, for example. As far as I could tell, Gellman did not explain why
Nixon voted to cut funds for NATO. But, regarding aid to South Korea,
Gellman noted Nixon's explanation that he was making a gesture of
protest. Nixon said that he voted against the first package for aid to
South Korea because it did not include aid to anti-Communist Formosa, or
Taiwan, but he supported the second package because it included that
Gellman thinks that it was a mistake for Douglas to attack
Nixon from the right on the Communism issue, for Nixon held that
territory pretty safely on account of his role in bringing down Alger
Hiss. What Gellman thinks she should have done instead, I don't know.
According to Gellman's narrative, she was already unpopular, even with
Democrats, on account of her leftist stances (though Gellman says that
Humphrey Bogart introduced Douglas' husband on the radio when he was
about to make a political statement!). Moreover, even if she had stuck
with a theme of applauding the New Deal and Fair Deal, Gellman contends
that a number of voters were growing tired of those government
initiatives, and so I wonder if such a strategy would have helped her.
One more interesting item in my latest reading: On page 324, Gellman states: "On October 5, the Los Angeles Sentinel,
which had a circulation of 25,000 and the largest advertising volume of
any Western African American newspaper, editorialized that although it
still liked Douglas...it could not support her for the Senate." Its
reason was that it thought that Douglas was "weak kneed" (its words) on
Communism and its fellow-travelers.
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