Campaign Smearing

January 4, 1956

Report Outline
Portents of Campaign Smearing in 1956
Excesses in Campaigns for Presidency
Methods of Handling Campaign Scurrility

Portents of Campaign Smearing in 1956

Spokesmen of the two great American political parties, warming up for the quadrennial fight for control of the presidency, already have given signs that the 1956 campaign will be rough and hard-hitting. Cries of “Smear!” are being exchanged as leaders of the party organizations jockey for favorable advance positions.

Before the battle between Republicans and Democrats is fully joined, Congress may be persuaded to overhaul the federal election laws for the purpose, among other things, of promoting fair play in political campaigns. A bill reported to the Senate on June 22, 1955, and still awaiting action, would strike in various ways at clandestine political groups which circulate scurrilous campaign literature. By requiring candidates to accept responsibility for activities undertaken by others in their behalf, it would seek to eliminate or greatly reduce questionable campaign practices.

Congress in recent years has given extended consideration to means of outlawing false and slanderous attacks on political candidates and parties. Controls of that sort, however, are difficult to devise and hard to enforce. The tendency to indulge in campaign excesses is curbed now only by the libel laws, which are rarely invoked by politicians. It is not clear, moreover, how strongly the average voter feels about employment of abusive tactics in campaigns for public office. Many people are prone to tolerate a certain amount of political invective as all in the game. But campaign methods or utterances that cross the border into malice or deception may breed resentment and make for long-lasting public discord.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Presidential Candidates and Campaigns
Jan. 15, 2021  The Biden Presidency Updated
Jan. 31, 2020  Presidential Primaries
Nov. 16, 2018  The Presidency
Jan. 06, 2017  Trump Presidency
Mar. 06, 2015  Presidential Power
Feb. 03, 2012  Presidential Election
Jan. 30, 2009  The Obama Presidency
Aug. 08, 2008  Political Conventions
Jul. 18, 2008  Race and Politics
Apr. 20, 2007  Electing the President
Dec. 30, 1988  Promises vs. Problems
Jul. 10, 1987  Presidential Nomination Process
Feb. 03, 1984  Choosing Presidential Nominees
Jun. 06, 1980  Choosing Presidential Candidates
Apr. 09, 1976  Presidential Campaign Coverage
Feb. 23, 1972  Political Conventions
May 27, 1964  Foreign Policy Issues in Election Campaigns
Sep. 21, 1960  Voting in 1960
Jan. 06, 1960  Presidential Primaries, 1960
Jan. 04, 1956  Campaign Smearing
Nov. 30, 1955  Presidential Possibilities, 1956
May 09, 1952  Open Conventions
Jan. 16, 1952  Presidential Primaries, 1952
Oct. 12, 1949  Modernization of the Presidential Election
Jan. 14, 1948  Presidential Primaries
May 01, 1944  Foreign Policy in National Elections
Jan. 01, 1944  Choice of Candidates for the Presidency
Apr. 08, 1940  Republican Candidates for the Presidency, 1940
Apr. 01, 1940  Democratic Candidates for the Presidency, 1940
Jun. 19, 1939  Selection of Nominees for the Presidency
Aug. 19, 1938  Nomination by Primary
Mar. 11, 1936  Voting in Presidential Elections
Feb. 18, 1936  Presidential Candidates, 1936
Mar. 03, 1932  Decline of the Presidential Primary
Aug. 25, 1931  Presidential Candidates, 1932
May 05, 1928  National Nominating Conventions
Sep. 03, 1927  Presidential Candidates—1928
Jun. 14, 1927  Patronage Influence in Nominating Conventions
Sep. 11, 1926  The Future of the Direct Primary
Jul. 02, 1924  Proposed Reforms of Presidential Nominating Methods
Jun. 04, 1924  The Machinery of the Political Conventions
Mar. 15, 1924  Presidential Candidates and the Issues
Sep. 05, 1923  The Passing of the Second Term
Campaigns and Elections
Party Politics
Party Politics