Both major political parties claim that the 1960 national election is one of the most critical elections in the history of our nation. They base their claim in the light of increasing international conflict which is climaxed by the fear of Russia, rumors of war, and technological advances on the part of the aggressors. Both parties have launched a vigorous campaign to secure control of the national administration. We are in the midst of another political battle. Both sides are claiming that they have the best solutions to all our problems.
In order to secure victory both parties strived to find men of ability and popular appeal. Richard Nixon, the unanimous choice of the Republican Party, had little difficulty in securing the presidential nomination of his party after Nelson Rockefeller had refused to run the position. Although Nixon has been a controversial political figure, he also claims a colorful political background. His father was the owner of a small grocery store-gas station. Nixon graduated from Duke Law School in 1940. He practiced law for several years until 1946 when he was elected to the House of Representatives. He was re-elected in 1948. In 1950 he became a U.S. Senator in California. Only four years later he was nominated and elected to the Vice-Presidency. After his re-election in 1956 he was nominated unanimously for the presidency this year. He is the choice of his party.
John F. Kennedy waged a vigorous campaign in order to defeat four other leading candidates for the Democratic nomination. He, unlike Nixon, originates from a wealthy family. His father had several successful businesses including a chain of movie theaters, a ship building company, a chain of banks, and the Merchandise Mart in Chicago. His father was a multi-millionaire. Kennedy graduated from Harvard in 1940. His first attempt at political office resulted in his being elected to the House of Representatives in 1946. He was re-elected by great majorities in 1948 and 1950. In 1952 he opposed and defeated incumbent Henry Cabot Lodge for U.S. Senator of Massachusetts.
It is striking to note that both candidates are very young. If Kennedy is elected, he will be the youngest President to be elected. T.R. Roosevelt was President at a younger age, but this was caused by the sudden death of President McKinley, Kennedy is forty-two which Nixon is forty-seven. The constitution requires that the Presidential candidate be at least thirty five.
In his first address after announcing his candidacy in the Washington National Press Club, Kennedy started to press the attack against the Republicans. He characterized President Eisenhower as a weak President. Describing Eisenhower, he called him “a passive broker for conflicting interests, and a bookkeeper who feels that his work is done when the numbers on the balance sheet come out even.” Kennedy claims that the next President must deal with the growing missile gap, the use of Communist China, the despair of underdeveloped nations, the explosive situation in Berlin and NATO, the lack of arms control agreement, and all the domestic problems of our farms, cities, and schools.
Nixon’s campaign is built on the Eisenhower policies. He plans to implement these policies and build upon them. Nixon claims that the Eisenhower administration deserves a vote of confidence from the American people. He bases this claim on the fact that this administration got the U.S. out of one war, kept it out of other wars, and offers the best hope for peace without surrender in the years to come. Nixon has peace, prosperity, and the President on his side. He plans to add the “new-new” Nixon.
There are several distinguishing issues in the 1960 election. The first is religion. Although many people claim that religion should not be an issue in a political campaign, the fact nevertheless remains, it is an issue. The Gallup Poll indicates chances are better for a Roman Catholic to be elected than it used to be. In the late twenties Herbert Hoover, a Republican, carried seven Democratic states from the “Solid South.” The predominantly Protestant South is still the heart of anti-Catholic attitudes Southerners express fears of a catholic spoils system with all Catholics getting good jobs or even more fantastic the Pope running the country for us. The fact that Kennedy is a Roman Catholic was an asset to him in heavily catholic populated Massachusetts in state elections. However, many conservative protestant groups have openly instructed their people not to vote for a Roman Catholic. Many Protestants question Kennedy’s stand on his interpretation of the separation between church and state. History has shown that the Romish Church will use her power whenever and wherever possible.
Another outstanding issue is the question of international affairs. The Republicans claim that Nixon’s eight years of Vice-Presidential experience combined with Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge’s experience in the United Nations is an unbeatable combination. Democrats maintain a few new faces could better cope with the Russians. They call attention to the U-2 incident, the failure of the summit meeting and international distress at the present time.
In regards to our economic and domestic situation a Kennedy administration would push hard for a great expansion of government spending on desirable and essential public services. This would be done because the Democrats feel that the public sector is starved and also because they believe that spending on everything from schools to missiles is the best way to spur our nation’s growth. A Nixon administration would move much more cautiously in the direction of government spending. The Republican view is that the public is not starved as the Democrats claim. Moreover, the way for our nation to grow is through higher private spending rather than higher government spending.
Before the election is over many opinions and beliefs will be expressed. Everyone of us should realize what the various candidates stand for. In conclusion, may I remind all eligible voters to exercise their prerogative. Be sure to vote, and vote with intelligence!
*The writer, a periodic contributor to Beacon Lights, is now teaching at Grand Rapids Christian High School. We welcome his comprehensive analysis of the present political situation.