I have three items for my write-up today on Greg Mitchell's Tricky Dick and the Pink Lady: Richard Nixon vs. Helen Gahagan Douglas----Sexual Politics and the Red Scare, 1950.
As I said in my last post on Mitchell's book, and also in previous
posts about Richard Nixon's U.S. Senate race against Representative
Helen Gahagan Douglas, Nixon attacked Douglas by saying that, in the
U.S. House, she voted similarly a significant number of times to
Representative Vito Marcantonio, a far left congressman who was believed
to have pro-Soviet sympathies. Later, Nixon's campaign manager
Murray Chotiner admitted that "you can take any vote and you can find
that a man as conservative as Bob Taft voted the same way as Marcantonio
for different reasons." Conservative Republican Senator
Robert Taft, after all, was largely an isolationist, so he would overlap
with Marcantonio when the two cast isolationist sorts of votes. That
doesn't mean Taft was pro-Communist, though! What's interesting is
that, when Taft was running for re-election in Ohio and was playing the
anti-Communist card, his Democratic opponent, Joseph Ferguson, pointed
to the number of times that Taft voted the same as Marcantonio (page
128). Ferguson lost that election.
Mitchell, like others I have
read, believes that Douglas' strategy of pointing out the number of
times that Nixon voted the same as Marcantonio was not particularly
effective. For one, nobody would believe that Nixon was pro-Communist
because he was the one who took down Alger Hiss. Second, my impression
is that Mitchell believes that Douglas should have focused on domestic
issues, the concerns that were impacting Californians' lives, while
emphasizing that big money was not on her side. While Douglas indeed
did talk about domestic issues and her commitment to the people rather
than special interests, she got sidetracked by moving into Richard
Nixon's territory, namely, anti-Communism. I don't know if focusing on
domestic concerns would have won her the election, even according to
Mitchell, for Mitchell narrates that many Americans were afraid of
Communism in 1950. Regarding her strategy of highlighting where
Nixon voted the same as Marcantonio, I can see merit in that sort of
approach, even if it ultimately failed for Douglas. Granted, Douglas
probably would not convince anybody that Richard Nixon was
pro-Communist, but such an approach could show that voting the same as
Vito Marcantonio did not necessarily mean that one was pro-Communist.
Nixon contemplated other ways to associate Douglas with Communism, such as telling an aide to track down times when the People's World said that Douglas spoke before front groups (though I doubt that People's World called them that), or Communist Mother Bloor's praise for Douglas.
The California chairman of the Communist Party, William Schneiderman,
however, was rather critical of Douglas, for she supported the Korean
War. Schneiderman charged that Douglas "had been moving to the right
since 1947" (Mitchell's words) and was "one of the chief liberal
apologists for the reactionary policies of the Truman Administration"
(Schneiderman's words, quoted on page 144). Schneiderman still regarded
Douglas as better than Nixon, though.
2. Did Nixon exploit anti-Semitism in the 1950 race, since Douglas' husband was Jewish?
On pages 91 and 281, Mitchell refers to letters in which a Nixon
secretary and a woman from Iowa discussed the fact that Melvyn Douglas'
last name was originally Hesselberg. On page 139, Mitchell states that
Nixon occasionally in speeches referred "to his opponent as Helen
Hesselberg, before correcting himself". Nixon also did not repudiate the support of anti-Semite Gerald L.K. Smith until Douglas criticized Nixon for having Smith's support,
plus Nixon let the anti-Communist legislator Jack Tenney "stand in for
him at some campaign rallies when [Nixon] was called back to Washington"
(page 139). Tenney was "very close to Smith" and said that he had a
good relationship with Nixon, even though Tenney didn't care for Nixon's
campaign manager Murray Chotiner, a Jew.
like to make an observation about Nixon's stance on African-American
issues in his 1950 Senate race, based on what I have read so far in
Mitchell's book (which I have not finished). It seems that Nixon was
trying to gain African-American votes. Nixon was interested
when speaker of the California State Assembly Sam Collins told him that
he (Collins) asked a committee to investigate a bank that supposedly had
never loaned money to African-Americans, a bank that Douglas supposedly
directed (page 91). A Women for Nixon ad featured an African-American
woman who (with other women) was trying to persuade a Douglas supporter
to vote for Nixon. And Nixon praised the service of African-American
soldiers in Korea.
(UPDATE: On pages 205-206, Mitchell goes into more detail on the topic
of race during the 1950 U.S. Senate race in California. He refers to an
African-American newspaper that endorsed Nixon, which said about
Douglas: "Of course, she favors civil rights legislation. At election
time...what politician doesn't?" Mitchell also mentions
African-American celebrities who endorsed Nixon, such as actress Louise
Beavers and ex-football player Kenny Washington. But Mitchell also notes the African-American support that Douglas received----from the Sun Reporter
newspaper and A. Philip Randolph----and Mitchell says that Nixon's
campaigns planned only a "few major events in minority neighborhoods",
and that some have testified that Nixon was uncomfortable in urban areas
and around African-Americans, though Mitchell says on page 238 that
Nixon after his campaign went to Kenny Washington's home, drank beers,
and played the piano. Moreover, on page 230, Mitchell
states that "Some voters in all-white Republican strongholds received
postcards from a mythical Communist League of Negro Women urging them"
to vote for Douglas. Mitchell does not say that Nixon was responsible
for those postcards, however.)
3. Mitchell talks about the loyalty oath at the University of California, which, according to this site,
included "a denial of membership or belief in organizations (including
Communist organizations) advocating overthrow of the United States
government." A number of talented faculty people refused to sign it due
to their commitment to academic freedom, resulting in some drain of
talent from the University of California. Some protested that the
loyalty oath would be ineffective because a Communist could simply lie
by signing the oath! Interestingly, after a bill was passed that
codified Governor Earl Warren's suggestion that all public
employees be required to sign a loyalty oath, a Communist signed it,
saying that he didn't intend to overthrow the U.S. Government, for he
didn't need to do so: America, he said, would "collapse from its own
rottenness" (the Communist's word, quoted on page 173).
On pages 134-135, Mitchell quotes a statement by the San Francisco Examiner
supporting the loyalty oath at the University of California: "While
American youth is being conscripted to die fighting Communist barbarism
in Korea and elsewhere[,] it is proposed to accord to thirty-nine
professors and assistant professors...the privilege of defying a simple
regulation to protect the institution which is engaged in research vital
to national defense." That's a valid point, in my opinion:
that a subversive should not be in a position in which he or she could
negatively impact research that is "vital to national defense". I don't
think that all leftists should have been barred from such research (and
whether or not that happened, I don't know), but I can understand the