Liking Ike: Eisenhower, Advertising, and the Rise of Celebrity Politics

ISBN : 9780190278182

David Haven Blake
304 ページ
156 x 235 mm

To most historians, the first televised presdential debate between the haggard, unshaven Richard Nixon and the clean-cut, handsome John F. Kennedy provides the first example of television, then a new medium, demonstrating its unique power in American politics for the first time and for heralding a shift toward the primacy of the visual in presidential campaigns more generally. Yet, this popular narrative of JFK as the first media-savvy president overlooks the deft, innovative advertising techiniques and canny use of TV airtime adopted by his predecessor, Dwight D. Eisenhower. Liking Ike examines the prominent role that celebrities and advertising agencies played in Dwight Eisenhower's presidency. Guided by Madison Avenue executives and television pioneers, Eisenhower cultivated famous supporters as a way of building the broad-based support that had eluded Republicans for twenty years. It is customary to see the charismatic John F. Kennedy and his Rat Pack entourage as the beginning of presidential glamour in the United States, but from Walt Disney and Irving Berlin to Jimmy Stewart and Helen Hayes, celebrities regularly appeared in Eisenhower's campaigns. Ike's political career was so saturated with celebrity that opponents from the right and left accused him of being a "glamour " candidate. In a series of absorbing chapters covering the major candidates of the era-Eisenhower, Adlai Stevenson, Kennedy, Reagan-David Haven Blake foregrounds the behind-the-scenes operators who worked with the Madison Avenue executives who strategically brought celebrities into the political process. Based on extensive research, the book explores the changing dynamics of celebrity politics as Americans adjusted to the television age. By the mid-1920s, entertainers were routinely drawing publicity to their favorite candidates. But with the rise of television and mass advertising, political advisers began to professionalize the attention celebrities could bring to presidential campaigns. In meetings, memos, and television scripts, they charted a strategy for "leavening " political programming with celebrity interviews, musical performances, and elaborate "television spectaculars " that would surround their candidates with beautiful sets and popular personalities. Commentators worried about the seemingly superficial values that television had introduced to political campaigns, and writers, filmmakers, and fellow politicians criticized the influence of glamour and publicity. But despite these complaints, Eisenhower's legacy would live on in the subsequent careers of John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan-and ultimately, provide the template for the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama, John McCain, and Hillary Clinton.


Introduction: Eisenhower, Televised and Memorialized
Chapter 1: Ike Day
Chapter 2: Riding the Roosevelt Special
Chapter 3: The Coriolanus Candidate
Chapter 4: The Spectacle Campaign
Chapter 5: Cornflakes
Chapter 6: Madly for Adlai
Chapter 7: The Biggest Fan in the World
Chapter 8: Happy Birthday, Mr. President
Conclusion: The Glamour Republic


David Haven Blake is Professor of English at The College of New Jersey. His previous publications include Walt Whitman and the Culture of American Celebrity (Yale University Press, 2006), and Walt Whitman, Where the Future Becomes Present (University of Iowa Press, 2008).