My latest reading of Irwin Gellman’s The Contender: Richard Nixon, The Congress Years, 1946-1952 got into Richard Nixon’s 1950 run for the U.S. Senate. This topic will encompass my next reading of Gellman, as well.
On page 289, Gellman states the following:
“The U.S. Senate contest in California during 1950 has been the stuff where legend has replaced fact. ‘Tricky Dicky’ smeared Helen Gahagan Douglas, the ‘Pink Lady,’ thus relying on the anti-Communist hysteria to propel the dirty trickster into the upper House. The record, however, paints quite a different scene. Helen Gahagan Douglas was far to the left of many Democrats, let alone Republicans. Besides her close attachment to New and Fair Deal policies that the majority of her party was abandoning, she ran the campaign without the benefit of an effective statewide staff, clearly defined strategy, or an adequate fund-raising scheme. Along with these Herculean disadvantages, a large segment of the Democratic Party had rejected her unswerving advocacy of liberalism. By the time of the general election, she had been thoroughly smeared, not by Nixon but by her own party. Faced with widespread Democratic desertion that she was unable to prevent, Douglas never united the warring factions of the Democratic Party to battle against the Republican enemy. Her painfully inept stewardship—-not Nixon—-guaranteed her demise.”
That’s the picture that Gellman paints: Douglas experienced a rough Democratic primary before she finally ran against Richard Nixon. Moreover, Gellman mentions times when Douglas as a representative in the U.S. House voted with a tiny minority against things that garnered a significant amount of support by both Republicans and a number of Democrats, on such issues as internal security (but more on her stance on internal security tomorrow). She was also against the Truman Doctrine for fighting Communism abroad. Gellman does present Douglas as rather marginal. At the same time, Gellman’s narrative also does not portray Nixon as one who pulled his punches. While Gellman says at one point in the book that Nixon did not attack Douglas during the primary and that she attacked Nixon first, he also narrates that Nixon criticized her as well, fearing that her stance did not take seriously the threat of Communism.