Electoral Politics: Too Divisive?

October 26, 1951 — The Herald and Review

The Mossadegh Project | July 13, 2021                   

Lead editorial in The Herald and Review newspaper of Decatur, Illinois. It also ran the next day as lead editorial in The Southern Illinoisan of Carbondale, Illinois.

United States media archive

Public Confidence

Just what is “public confidence?” It is a phrase that has been used frequently of late to justify demands that Secretary of State Acheson resign and that Philip Jessup be rejected as a United Nations delegate. [Dean Acheson]

Critics of Acheson demand his ouster because “he lacks the public confidence”. For whom do they speak?

The critics who went after Jessup with an unfounded smear campaign convinced two key senators that he should be turned down because “he lacks the public confidence” and that his appointment would “divide the country.” How do they know?

From a practical standpoint, anyone who is familiar with the polls conducted by Dr. George C. Gallup knows that every time a question is asked concerning a personality in Government the average persons who never heard of him runs about 40 per cent. The remaining 60 per cent generally split no worse than 40-20 pro or con. Either way, no one can say positively that when a minority disapproves of a particular person, he lacks public confidence.

For the most part recently, Gallup polls have indicated that the American public approves of the Administration’s foreign policy and the efforts of Secretary Acheson to combat communism. Public confidence, then, seems to be a handy tag to attach to an illogical and unfair attack on any personality in government. If a person is controversial, then he lacks public confidence.

And it is very easy nowadays to make a person controversial. You don’t need facts or figures, just start calling him names. Actually, the thing that divides the country deeper than anything else occurs regularly every four years, lasting a few months before every presidential election. Nobody recommends eliminating the presidential election simply because it divides the country.

During that particular period, nobody could be more controversial than a presidential candidate. But nobody asks that candidates retire because of it, or that the winning candidate resign because from 40 to 45 per cent of the voters don’t have confidence in him. Of course, it’s possible that this will occur in 1952. There certainly seems to be a tendency toward it.

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Related links:

Emotions Ride Election Tide | Wilmington Morning Star, November 7, 1952

The Bully’s Role | The San Francisco Examiner, August 12, 1953

How Freedom Slips | The Altoona Tribune, June 15, 1951

MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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