The Big Switch

The Big Switch- No Nixon in 1952


Senator Richard Nixon (R-CA) in tears after the 1952
Republican national Convention. On his left is Senator William Knowland (R-CA),
nominee for Vice President


Background/Point Of Departure: The California Delegation to the 1952 Republican National Convention was pledged to support favorite son Earl Warren, in the hopes that Robert A. Taft and Dwight D. Eisenhower would deadlock the convention, thereby opening the way for Warren as a compromise candidate.

After the convention, some Warren supporters felt that Nixon had betrayed Earl Warren and had been working for Eisenhower's nomination all along. It was these disgruntled Warren supporters who leaked the stories about "the Fund" to the press.

The Fund, as it was called, was an expense account of sorts, financed by private contributions. In the words of his campaign Treasurer Dana Smith, the money in the Fund was used for "Transportation and hotel expenses to cover trips to California more frequently than his mileage allowance permits. Payment of airmail and long-distance phone charges above his allowance ... Preparation of material ... to send out to the people ... who have supported him ... Defraying expenses of his Christmas cards to the people who worked in his campaign or contributed financially ... paying for getting out material for radio broadcasts and television programs. ... and various other similar items."

The Fund itself was not illegal at the time. However, freshman Senator Richard Nixon had made it a point of criticising his colleague's finances and of attacking corruption wherever it might be seen. Earlier in the year, he had called for the resignation of the Republican National Committee Chairman Guy Gabrielson for his own implication in a loan scandal.

In our timeline, Richard Nixon came to the Fund crisis after he was well into Eisenhower's presidential campaign. Even so, Ike's campaign team began contacting potential replacements almost immediately. However, after Nixon gave the infamous Checkers speech, the issue of The Fund seemed to fade into the background and Nixon remained as the vice-presidential nominee.


Left to Right: Senator Harry Darby (R-KS), Representative Clarence Brown (R-OH), RNC Chairman Guy Gabrielson (R-NJ) and Representative B. Carroll Reese (R-TN)

In this timeline, things go rather differently. A Warren supporter becomes disgruntled with Nixon's behavior and suspect loyalty during the dealings of the Convention. Perhaps he hears Nixon's name being floated for Vice President, perhaps he finds out that Ike's team contacted the Senator- who knows?

This disgruntled Warren supporter takes the Fund information to a man who will use it- Guy Gabrielson, the very man whom Nixon had attacked over a loan scandal.

Gabrielson had come to the Convention an outspoken Taft man and he would leave the Convention an outspoken Taft man. In our timeline, he continued to hold a grudge against Nixon, even criticising Nixon's Checkers speech while he remained on the RNC. He was critical of Nixon's place on the ticket until the election.

In this timeline, he jumps upon the opportunity to embarrass the junior Senator from California. He spreads the information on The Fund to power brokers in the Party, to Eisenhower's advisers and even to the press. There is, of course, embellishment in each retelling and, by the end of the day, talk on the floor is about Nixon's "billionaire club". The press hound Nixon over the scandal, which leads to a breakdown after one particularly abrasive reporter (pictured above)

On July 8, 1952 Senator William Knowland receives two phone calls. One from Robert Taft, asking if he would be interested in the Vice Presidency. Another from Ike, asking the same thing.

The votes for Presidential nominee fall the same as in our timeline. Dwight D. Eisenhower wins the nomination. The vote for Vice Presidential nominee is, as in our timeline, unanimous; albeit for the Senator from Formosa, not for Tricky Dick.
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The title is actually from Knight and Knowland's showdown. The Big Switch was the election where Knowland ran for Governor, having unseated Knight, and Knight ran for Knowland's Senate seat. Both lost.
A Sense of Decency- Eisenhower's Feud with Joseph McCarthy


Herbert Block's March 29, 1950 cartoon, coined the term "McCarthyism"

This is the first time in my experience, and I was ten years in the Senate, that I ever heard of a Senator trying to discredit his own Government before the world.… Your telegram is not only not true and an insolent approach to a situation that should have been worked out between man and man but it shows conclusively that you are not even fit to have a hand in the operation of the Government of the United States. - President Truman's drafted response to a telegram from Joseph McCarthy, unsent

August 23, 1952- At a press conference in Denver, Colorado, Eisenhower was asked the question of whether he supported Joe McCarthy. Eisenhower said that he would never give a "blanket endorsement" to anyone whose views violated his idea of what was "right, decent and fair." He then went on to say that he would "support" any properly nominated Republican candidate "for the good of the Republican organization." One local reporter retorted in his article, "Didn't take long for the General to start sounding like a politician, now did it?"

It was in the hopes of Eisenhower's team that the issue would not have to go much further than that flub. The divisive Convention had been enough to drive a wedge between moderate and conservative Republicans. And while the staid conservatism of Robert A. Taft had been put off by the flamboyant antics of Joe McCarthy, the many supporters of McCarthy had been behind Taft- and they had made that clear at the Convention.

But Eisenhower kept taking questions from the press. One reporter chimed in about McCarthy's abuse of George C. Marshall. Eisenhower went red and passionately declared that he had "no patience with anyone who can find in his [Marshall's] record of service to this country anything to criticize." They had found the General's breaking point on the issue in the person of George C. Marshall.

Perhaps the conflict could have been averted after that press conference if the Republican National Committee had not scheduled a campaign trip to Wisconsin. As it was, Eisenhower's speech writer Emmet John Hughes came to Ike shortly after that day's events, with the intention of drafting a speech for the visit to Wisconsin. He decided, much to his team's dismay, that the speech would be a repudiation of "self-appointed censors" and "intellectual vigilantism" and would be "a tribute to George."

Arriving in Green Bay, Eisenhower called for the election of a wholly Republican slate, affirming again the "good of the Republican organization". Senator McCarthy himself in the audience, smiled. Ike went on, saying that he agreed with the aims of the Congressional investigation- not with the methods. He then went on to say that such investigations should be under the purview of the Executive, not the legislative. McCarthy wasn't smiling by the time he got in the campaign train. He went to the rear compartment, away from Eisenhower and his men. The Senator from Wisconsin had a notoriously thin skin... and he was fearful of what a repudiation by Ike could do to his career.

Governor Kohler went at the bequest of McCarthy to speak with Eisenhower and his team on the way to Appleton (McCarthy's hometown), intending to ask them to tone down the rhetoric. Wisconsin, he explained, while a Republican majority in its state and national offices, was a bit of a wild card, having gone for the Democrats in 4 of the last 5 election. Insulting one of the state's "great statesman" could sway it in the general election.... and who was to say if Ike could afford to lose a state?

Eisenhower did not respond much while the Governor was in the compartment, and let his team handle him. Privately, he was outraged at the threatening he felt McCarthy (through his surrogate) was giving him. He told his handlers that he would be giving his original draft of the speech- and that he would be doing so in Appleton. [1]

Senator McCarthy bounced out of the train car before the General, giving him a hearty handshake as he stepped out of the train and offering to show him the beauty of rural Wisconsin. He was shocked when the General gave him a cold shoulder (Kohler had told him that he'd been successful in convincing Ike) and even more so when the campaign workers began unloading the equipment for a speech.

That couldn't compare to the shock when Eisenhower actually made his speech. It began with a call "for the election of every Republican on the slate" and from there, well.....


All of the many faces of joe McCarthy were seen that day.....

Ike's Appleton Speech said:
Our problem is to defend freedom in such fashion that we do not ourselves suffocate freedom in its own dwelling place. The right to question a man's judgment carries with it no automatic right to question his honor.

Let me be quite specific. I know that charges of disloyalty have, in the past, been leveled against General George C. Marshall. I have been privileged for thirty five years to know George C. Marshall personally. I knew him, as a man and a soldier, to be dedicated with singular selflessness and the profoundest patriotism to the service of America. And this episode is a sobering lesson in the way freedom must be defended.

[1] Almost everything else in here is OTL, with minor details changed. The only difference is that Eisenhower decided against his harsher speech IOTL and ITTL decided to give it in the most insulting venue possible. Even the speech editing is only a minor editing of the draft Ike threw out.
The Senator from Formosa


In 1950, Senator William Knowland delivered 115 Senate speeches on the Far East alone. He made it his defining issue- a way to carve out his own niche. Opposed to the isolationism of Taft and other Republican conservatives, opposed to the "narrow" Atlanticism of Rockefeller and other Eastern liberals, Knowland's foreign policy took a long hard look at the question of "Who lost China?"- a question that lingered more and more as the Korean War went on. His passionate and eloquent condemnation of the "betrayal" of the Nationalists by Truman and the Democrats earned him the nickname "the Senator from Formosa"- and likely earned him the nod as Vice Presidential nominee. He turned bygone foreign policy into a partisan issue, an ideological fantasy to be mused upon. His concern wasn't in reconquering China for Chiang Kai-Shek, it was in preventing "another China." Knowland set a trend in the Republican Party of looking to the East- a realm no Democrat could contest them on for decades.

He was not, however, a McCarthyite. He didn't see Communist conspiracy in the decisions of Yalta- he saw incompetence and naivete. He thought that many of the Congressional investigations were chasing after shadows. He didn't go out of his way to condemn McCarthy and his allies- but until Eisenhower took to the stump in Appleton, no one really influential in the Republican Party did.

Shortly after the events of Appleton, Knowland recieved a short and simple message from Eisenhower's campaign staff. "Bill, talk about the EXTERNAL threat of communism." And he did. One reporter assigned to follow Knowland said that he tried to beat his record in 1950. Everywhere he went, he talked about the failures of the Truman Administration, the specter of Communist China and how, if elected, Stevenson would oversee an even worse expansion of Communism. India, French Indochina, Dutch Indochina, the Philippines.....

He avoided talking directly on the Korean War- often leaving it to the same vague promises that Eisenhower was giving. But he made clear that he believed in a strong defense, echoing his statements at the Convention, saying "[that] in the field of military expenditures the American people get a dollar’s worth of value for every dollar spent and the funds be spent on building muscle and not fact in the defense organization." He also came out against admitting "Mao's China" to the UN- a policy that would remain in effect for the duration of Eisenhower's Presidency. Despite the UN skepticism of himself and many in his party, he lauded the organization, especially Resolution 505, passed earlier that year, which censured the USSR for their actions against the Republic of China.

His hard-line campaigning likely shored up much of the fallout over Eisenhower's Appleton speech among the new, Cold Warrior conservatives. Knowland wasn't quite one of them, having come from the Warren machine and having played the standard Californian game between the factions, but many conservatives held a great respect for the man. On the matter of McCarthy, Knowland's only contribution was calling him an "ignorant little prick."
All The Way With Adlai

When the tumult and the shouting die, when the bands are gone and the lights are dimmed, there is the stark reality of responsibility in an hour of history haunted with those gaunt, grim specters of strife, dissension, and materialism at home, and ruthless, inscrutable, and hostile power abroad. The ordeal of the twentieth century – the bloodiest, most turbulent age of the Christian era – is far from over. Sacrifice, patience, understanding, and implacable purpose may be our lot for years to come. ... Let's talk sense to the American people! Let’s tell them the truth, that there are no gains without pains, that we are now on the eve of great decisions.-
Presidential Nominee Adlai Stevenson


Pulitzer prize winning photo of Democratic Presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson.
The frugal "hole in the shoe" would become his symbol in both '52 and '56

Governor Adlai Stevenson (D-IL) protested that he did not want to run for President, and perhaps the Democrats would have been wise to listen to him. Senator Estes Kefauver (D-TN) had after all, won primary after primary, but was done in by power brokers in smoke-filled rooms. Senator Richard Russell (R-GA), a big boisterous man, smoked many a cigar with the power brokers, but was nixed by the Northern bosses due to his opinions on civil rights and desegregation, and arguably due to mere regional prejudice. W. Averell Harriman was Truman's pick, but he was somewhat like a Herbert Hoover- an able administrator with no elective experience. Vice President Alben Barkley (D-KY) had been told he was too old. So all eyes turned to Adlai, the last, best hope of the Democrats in what looked to be the dying years of the New Deal Coalition.

His "electrifying" speech at the Convention led to him being "stampeded" into the nomination. His speeches and quotations were the talk of academics and media personalities but he was quickly labeled an egghead, and even he couldn't deny an accurate characterization. It was clear that he wasn't prepared to pursue national office. His eloquent speaking style set him apart from many of the working class New Dealers he should have had in his pocket. It didn't help him that his opponent was Dwight D. Eisenhower, the much beloved General who could speak in mindless platitudes and still hold a crowd in awe. A supporter once told Adlai he'd have the vote of every thinking man in America- Adlai coolly replied that he'd need a majority.

Stevenson ran a lackluster campaign. He seemed afraid of attacking the General and even his running mate Knowland, and his timid and polite nature about his opponents spawned the slogan "Even Adlai Likes Ike." He gave wonderful and eloquent speeches which resonated well with the press and not so much with his intended audience. The Democrats, it seemed, were hoping for momentum, but after controlling the government since 1933, their momentum had run out.

When election night results rolled in, Adlai Stevenson is reported to have said "It hurts too much to laugh, but I am too old to cry!" Eisenhower/Knowland swept the field with 428 electoral votes to Stevenson/Sparkman's 103 electoral votes. Even the popular vote was a crushing defeat- 53% to 46% [1]


[1] Which actually means he did better than IOTL. The changed states were Missouri (Stevenson), Kentucky (Eisenhower) and Tennessee (Stevenson). Knowland's more committed and well-known civil rights stance, the confrontation with McCarthy and differences in voter turnout are the main reasons for the changes. However, to an ATL observer this really does look like a big landslide and the worst possible result for Stevenson.

NOTE: Senate elections remained mostly the same with one exception- Patrick J. Hurley (R-NM) unseated Senator Dennis Chavez (D-NM). In addition, McCarthy experienced a more significant drop than IOTL, eking out a 51% victory. IOTL, he garnered 54% which was itself a drop. The Myth of McCarthy will be expounded upon soon enough....
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Wow. Is the first picture really Nixon? If it is, that's simply amazing. I never would have thought that Nixon, one of the most infamous politicians in history, would have cried in public.:eek:
Wow. Is the first picture really Nixon? If it is, that's simply amazing. I never would have thought that Nixon, one of the most infamous politicians in history, would have cried in public.:eek:

Yes. Here's the original caption:
The year is 1952, and Senator Richard M. Nixon of California breaks into tears following a meeting with Dwight D. Eisenhower which resolved his political expense fund troubles and kept him on the GOP ticket as Vice Presidential candidate. After this controversy over funds raised for him by businessmen, Nixon's chances of political survival were conservatively estimated at nil. Senator William Knowland of California is on the right.
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This is a first and the most original US political POD I've seen here in recent months, please continue. :) Of course, Ike intensely disliked Knowland and thought him monomaniacal about Formosa and Jiang's KMT, so we'll see how this works out.
This is a first and the most original US political POD I've seen here in recent months, please continue. :) Of course, Ike intensely disliked Knowland and thought him monomaniacal about Formosa and Jiang's KMT, so we'll see how this works out.

He disliked him later, having had to deal with him as Senate Majority Leader. Which is understandable. He was Taft's pick to be Acting Majority Leader before his death and he was known for being rather... stubborn.

However, when The Fund came up IOTL, he was flown out to Hawaii to be with Ike in case they had to drop Nixon. So obviously, any enmity came later (and I do plan on there being some enmity.... you can't take a man who would have been Senate Majority Leader and place him in the Vice Presidency and expect no conflict.)

Most of what I've read about Knowland RE: Nationalist China seems to indicate that he was more attached to the issue for political ends than anything else. (It was a stick to beat Truman and the Dems with- and the isolationists in his own party) He privately criticized Chiang Kai-Shek on numerous occasions and was more wedded to the idea of a non-Communist China than to the Generalissimo himself. (He was criticizing the past, not planning conquest in the future)

Obviously, I plan on him becoming a little more nuanced in foreign policy by the end of Ike's Presidency. He still had a little bit of provincialism in him as Senate Majority Leader.
Awesome man, I love this TL, and I can't wait to see where this goes! :D

BTW you might want to fix this:
Stevenson/Knowland swept the field with 428 electoral votes to Stevenson/Sparkman's 103 electoral votes. Even the popular vote was a crushing defeat- 53% to 46% [1]

Or does Stevenson have split personality disorder? :eek:;)


Knowland's more committed and well-known civil rights stance​

Was Knowland that committed to civil rights at this point? OTL he disagreed with Brown v Board of Education, and he was initially rather lukewarm about the 1957 Civil Rights Act (supporting it mainly out of loyalty to the President and even then still voting with the Southern Democrats against weakening the fillibuster.)​
Mav: quite likely. Ike thought Knowland a monamaniacal idiot and a tool of the KMT lobby. He didn't like Nixon's constant attempts to increase his political power within the admin, but he certainly never underestimated Nixon's intelligence nor his political skills.

If Knowland gets the '60 nomination then the black vote will split. We forget that JFK voted with the South procedurally in 1957 for tactical reasons. The Dixiecrats were so thrilled that they briefly considered putting him as VP on their ticket if the opportunity arose.


Could Eisenhower dislike/hate Knowland even more that he did with Nixon in 1960?

Knowland was a very shy man and extremley awkward in personal conversations. It was bad enough that he had to devise a routine just to get through elevator rides with his employees. He would ask them if they had had their vacation yet. If they answered no, he would then ask them when they planned to go. If they answered yes, he would ask them where did they go? Either reply would take long enough to complete the ride and get him out of the elevator without having to engage in any further conversation. Apparently one time Knowland actually deviated from his routine and asked his fellow passenger "Don't I know you from somewhere?" The man then replied that he had worked for Knowland for nearly thirty years.

Add in that Knowland was also known for being rather blunt, stubborn, and quick to anger (though he apparently didn't hold grudges), and yes it is very easy to imagine Eisenhower disliking Knowland more than he ever did Nixon.
Was Knowland that committed to civil rights at this point? OTL he disagreed with Brown v Board of Education, and he was initially rather lukewarm about the 1957 Civil Rights Act (supporting it mainly out of loyalty to the President and even then still voting with the Southern Democrats against weakening the fillibuster.) [/LEFT]


The way I heard/read it, Knowland was angry at Johnson and the Democrats for watering down the 1957 Civil Rights Act and saw that as a setback for civil rights, while being angry at Lyndon Johnson for stealing the credit.

Maverick is correct here. He was also behind an attempt to strengthen the Civil Rights plank in 1952. He was good friends with Milfred Younger, a pretty Republican civil rights activist from California (who wrote the original and more forceful platform)

ITTL, that more forceful plank didn't pass anyways, but Knowland as VP made himself a little more clear.



The way I heard/read it, Knowland was angry at Johnson and the Democrats for watering down the 1957 Civil Rights Act and saw that as a setback for civil rights, while being angry at Lyndon Johnson for stealing the credit.

Don't get me wrong, Knowland did eventually come around and become a strong advocate for civil rights (to the point of being on the verge of tears when a southern sponsored amendment guaranteeing a jury trial for anyone charged with contempt of court in a civil rights case passed), but this conversion happened while he was working on the 1957 Civil Rights Act.

I'm just not aware that he had much interest in civil rights before 1957. His big issues prior to that time were defense, foreign policy, and government spending. All issues where southern Democrats were his natural allies who he wouldn't want to antagonize.
Most Dixiecrats (except Byrd), race aside, were New Dealers, so government spending was not an issue. Or as Russell put it, "in good times, I'm a reactionary. In bad times, I'm a liberal."
During the 1952 Republican National Convention, he worked with Mildred Younger on the Civil Rights plank (part of the reason, admittedly, was because Taft and Eisenhower had agreed to let the Foreign Policy be drafted by Dulles and kept it out of the hands of the delegates)

Generally speaking, almost every Californian politico was more involved in civil rights than your average Republican. But his friendship with Mildred Younger and his part in the 1952 plank (as well as later developments) indicate to me that he was already interested in and advocating for civil rights.

If you'd notice, the shift in votes was quite small- the states Eisenhower lost were all by very small margins, and Kentucky (a Southern state) flipped with Knowland on the ticket. His civil rights stance wasn't used as a big issue in the campaign- but the informed class of Southern Democrats were still affected by it. The one changed down-ticket election was due to his foreign policy stumping (Patrick J. Hurley was a perennial candidate who was much the same as Knowland on China.... and had actually worked with Chiang Kai-Shek.), not due to any civil rights stance.


Most Dixiecrats (except Byrd), race aside, were New Dealers, so government spending was not an issue. Or as Russell put it, "in good times, I'm a reactionary. In bad times, I'm a liberal."

Well the time from 1947-1953 were relatively speaking good times, so that would make Russell a reactionary correct? :)

At any rate, after digging through my books some more, I found a reference to Knowland inserting a description of a Georgia lynching into the Congressional record in 1946 (much to the aggravation of Senator Russell), so I stand corrected. Apparently Knowland did have at least some interest in civil rights issues prior to 1957. (Though opposing lynching is still quite a bit less impressive than opposing segregation and voter disenfranchisement.)

AngleAngel, what was in the '52 civil rights plank that Knowland endorsed? Did it actually call for any meaningful civil rights legislation?
Mrs. Younger and two other members wanted to call for a federal agency (she avoided the explosive initials FEPC) to push civil rights. The two other members were violently opposed. As a result, Millikin's full committee got majority and minority reports, and came out with a plank that each side could construe as it wished: '"We believe that it is the primary responsibility of each state to order and control its own domestic institutions . . . However, we believe that the Federal Government should take supplemental action within its constitutional jurisdiction to oppose discrimination against race, religion or national origin."
He was not a member on the committee to decide the plank- but he did discuss it with Younger and support it to Millikin. He supported the idea of a federal agency for Civil Rights- the sort of thing you only see in platforms, of course, but it was support nonetheless.

I'm considering Taft choosing Eugene Millikin as Acting Majority Leader, and him keeping it like Knowland did. The original "Mr. Conservative" won't do so well, of course.

As for landmarks missing, there's a new one- the Appleton Speech.