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July 19, 1960 – Interview with Governor Harold Stassen – Frank Reynolds – CBS – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
Governor Harold Stassen. If you grew up during the Nixon years, or even the Reagan Years, the name Harold Stassen might not ring many bells. True, he was the perpetual Presidential Candidate, seeking the office a record of nine times, between 1944 and 1992. And although he was a shining light during the 1948 Presidential campaign, and he did receive the nod three times, his glow was fading over the years. By the time of his final run in 1992 he was considered something of a relic and a curio of a bygone age.
What Harold Stassen represented was the Liberal Wing of the Republican party. Yes, there was one and it was alive and kicking all the way to the 1964 election, when the forces of Barry Goldwater took over the party and sent it on the course it has arrived at today.
Harold Stassen was the boy wonder of Minnesota politics. He was elected at 31, the youngest governor in American history. He served two terms, was elected for a third in 1942. But he hadn’t won an election after that, though he did hold cabinet rank under Eisenhower from 1955 to 1958. In addition, he ran for the vice presidency at least once, for governor of Pennsylvania twice, for mayor of Philadelphia once.
In this interview conducted a week before the start of the 1960 Republican Convention, Stassen is actively campaigning for fellow Liberal Republican New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller as the party’s nominee. He is vehemently opposed to Nixon running for the top spot, just as he was vehement in his opposition to Nixon being put on the ticket for Eisenhower’s second term in 1956. There was talk, largely lobbied by Stassen, of Eisenhower replacing Nixon, who had already served as Vice-President since 1952. Talk of Henry Cabot Lodge was making the rounds, but Eisenhower stayed the course and Lodge would become Nixon’s running mate in 1960.
Beyond the interview with Stassen, he offers a fascinating description as to what the Republican Party was like in the earlier years of the 20th century; the party of Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. But those days were fading fast, even in 1952. Although many would say that Eisenhower was as Liberal as you could get in 1952, and that the seeds for a revolution in the GOP began as early as 1954 – that particular pot wouldn’t come to a boil until 1968. By then the country was wildly divided and a Liberal Republican was an abstract concept not worth even passing considering by the GOP.
So to get a better idea of the people, issues and political climate of the Eisenhower era, here is that interview with Governor Harold Stassen with Frank Reynolds from approximately July 19, 1960.
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