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Teaching Eleanor Roosevelt Glossary

In 1960 Dwight Eisenhower's second term in the White House was drawing to a close, and while it was clear that the Republicans would nominate Vice-President Richard Nixon to succeed him, it was unclear whom the Democrats would nominate in opposition. Foremost among potential Democratic candidates was Senator John F. Kennedy, who had thrown his hat in early, and only slightly less formidable was the Senate's Democratic Leader, Lyndon B. Johnson. There were even some people who continued to support Adlai Stevenson–the twice-defeated Democratic nominee from 1952 and 1956– though most Democrats were uncomfortable with giving the nod to someone who had been rejected by the American people on more than one occasion.

Despite these reservations, Stevenson's hardcore loyalists organized a committee to draft the candidate for the nomination, since he was unwilling to openly campaign for it on his own behalf. Placing advertisements and collecting donations, the Draft Stevenson Committee mounted a grassroots effort to swing the nomination to their candidate. In this they were aided by the increasingly poor state of U.S.-Soviet relations, which highlighted the need for a more internationalist foreign policy. As their movement picked up steam through the spring and early summer, Eleanor Roosevelt and other longtime allies began taking a greater interest in the committee's work. With the Democratic National Convention approaching in July, ER agreed to serve as the committee's honorary chairman, and she attended the convention in Los Angeles intent upon seeing Stevenson nominated. Investing a large amount of her energy and personal prestige in his candidacy, ER was disheartened when the delegates selected JFK instead. The Draft Stevenson Committee had simply failed to attract enough support, and to its ardent supporters the Kennedy candidacy initially represented little more than a regrettable, pragmatic shift to the right in the Democratic Party.
 


Sources:

Lash, Joseph. Eleanor: The Years Alone. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1972, 293-297.

Martin, John Bartlow. Adlai Stevenson and the World. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co., 1977, 512.