Election 1956. Political parties battling for the hearts and minds of America – the beauty contest, the innuendo, the festival of mud tossed back and forth. Same as it ever was.
There has been a goodly amount of wistful nostalgia for the 1950s of late; that dewey-eyed view of the world, the perception of life substantially better than it is today – that loving look at a time which really only existed in magazine ads and situation comedies. Yet somehow, has become a yardstick by which America has been measuring itself and screams to go back to.
Did it actually ever exist? Sadly – no. The thing about looking at the past, any past, is that it is a safer bet than looking at the present and wondering about the future. The past can be interpreted, perceived and imagined in a myriad of ways – it can be adjusted to meet any criteria and everyone has their own particular notion of how it looked, acted and went. Let’s face it – the present is questionable and the future is scary. And it’s a great comfort to gaze back, even if you were never there, and ponder what life was like when “it was simple”.
Truths to tell – it was never simple. It is, as human nature so aptly demonstrates, loaded with fear and aching with dread; that’s just who we are – a fear-based society. It’s the same in 2017 as it was in 1956. In 1956 we had The Red Scare and Excess Stomach acid. Today we have falling down and not getting up, erectile dysfunction and Match.com.
To demonstrate that, and how our election process hasn’t changed particularly much (in principle anyway), here is a discussion/debate/free-for-all between DNC Chairman Paul Butler and RNC Chairman Leonard Hall. The discussion is from May 1956, and the chances of either a Democratic win or a Republican landslide, come November are argued and shouted back and forth.
Lest you think Politics was never a knock-down/drag-out affair and that civility was the watchword of the 1950s, have a listen and realize, it ain’t changed much at all – just the characters, the haircuts and the clothes.
Here is that episode of American Forum, as run on NBC Radio‘s weekend programming Monitor from Saturday, May 27, 1956.