the communist league of negro women voters -- 10/29/18

Today's selection -- from The Presidency of Richard Nixon by Melvin Small. Richard Nixon was an aggressive political campaigner. At one point his allies conjured a group labeled "The Communist League of Negro Women Voters" to associate with and thus taint his opponent:

"It was during [his 1950 Senate race against Helen Gahagan Douglas] that Americans first heard of 'Tricky Dick' Nixon. His campaign manager was [Murray] Chotiner, an early practitioner of negative campaigning who subsequently worked in every one of Nixon's campaigns until 1968. His Democratic opponent, a former singer and ac­tress, was a liberal whom the Book of Knowledge ranked as one of the twelve smartest women in the world. Although a critic of HUAC and anticom­munism, Douglas had moved toward the center of her party in recent years. Yet communism became the chief issue for the Nixon camp. This focus was not exceptional, as the 1950 campaign coincided with Senator Joseph McCarthy's (R-Wisc.) emergence on the national scene and his charges of 'Communists in the State Department.' McCarthy campaigned in Califor­nia for Nixon. McCarthy's charges received further impetus following the outbreak of the Korean War in June.

"Douglas had already been wounded during a tough primary campaign when her conservative opponent first brought up the 'Pink Lady' charge, suggesting that she was a communist sympathizer. In addition, she blundered when she compared Nixon's voting record with that of Vito Marcantonio. Nixon turned that charge around, comparing her voting record with Marcantonio's on pink-sheet broadsides, and labeled her 'pink right down to her underwear.'

"Throughout his career, Nixon was never comfortable with women in politics. The outspoken Douglas had even irritated Marcantonio, who urged Nixon to defeat the 'bitch.' But Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn (D-Tex.) told Douglas, 'Take that young man out in the finals. His is the most devious face of all those who have served in Congress all the years I've been here.'

"As in the Voorhis campaign, apparently freelance Nixon supporters made anti-Semitic phone calls, calling attention to Douglas's husband, the actor Melvyn Douglas, one of whose parents was Jewish. In another scur­rilous ploy, Nixon supporters mailed thousands of postcards reading, 'Vote for our Helen for Senator. We are with you 100%. The Communist League of Negro Women Voters.' "



Melvin Small


The Presidency of Richard Nixon


University Press of Kansas


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