In Retrospect: AARP Likes Ike, Not Taft

By:  Warren Mass
In Retrospect: AARP Likes Ike, Not Taft

In the latest AARP Bulletin, the editor writes that in retrospect, he would now favor "Ike" over Robert Taft for the 1952 GOP presidential nomination. 

In the July-August 2013 issue of the AARP Bulletin, the periodical’s editor in chief, Jim Toedtman, wrote an editorial headlined All Together, Let’s Like Ike.The headline was, of course, a play on the campaign slogan coined for General Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1951, when internationalists dismayed by the prospect of popular Ohio Senator Robert A. Taft (a non-interventionist in foreign policy) securing the Republican nomination in 1952 started a movement to convince Eisenhower — a lifelong Democrat — to run for president as a Republican.

Toedtman began his editorial by noting, reflectively, that while growing up in Ohio, “we” idolized Robert Taft, “our U.S. senator for 14 years and long known as 'Mr. Republican' for his party loyalty and his conservative, small-government principles.” Taking Toedtman to be using the editorial “we,” referring to himself, we took a look at his biography and saw that he graduated from Berea (Ohio) High School in 1959, making him a mere lad of about 11 years old at the time of the 1952 presidential campaign. While this writer also took a strong interest in politics around the same age, if Toedtman was able to identify “conservative, small-government principles” at 11, he must have been a political prodigy, indeed!

Perhaps he was merely echoing the sentiments of older family members, but he notes that “we were angry when Dwight D. Eisenhower defeated Taft’s bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 1952 and was twice elected president.” Constitutionalists would applaud his astute discernment of the relative merits of Taft and Eisenhower, but the apparently older and wiser Toedtman instead expresses his regrets: “History shows we were wrong.”

Toedtman does not explain why he and his associates were “angry” (rather than merely “disappointed”) when Eisenhower knocked Taft out of the race, but many who wrote about the methodology used to hand the nomination to Eisenhower were also angry — and justifiably so. First came a campaign to reduce the public’s confidence in Taft as a viable GOP candidate, through the creation of a slogan similar to that used to propel Eisenhower’s run: “I like Taft — but he can’t win.”

In his article “Robert Taft: The Man Who Should Have Been President” in American Opinion magazine (a predecessor of The New American) for October 1972, the renowned poet and essayist E. Merrill Root noted:

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