Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Dwight Eisenhower has long been thought of as a president who did not think about politics in a coherent way. This project finds, however, that Eisenhower was a coherent and systematic thinker about politics. The first chapter explores the sources of Eisenhower’s political thought. In this chapter I establish that he had both the resources and inclination to reflect seriously on politics from early adulthood forward. Next, in Chapter 2, I outline his view of freedom in conjunction with how he thought about the state and society. Here, I find that he held that the state must be powerful enough to accomplish big tasks, such as the interstate highway system, but not so powerful that citizens could not hold it accountable. After establishing his thought on big political concepts, I turn to Eisenhower’s thought on communism in Chapter 3. He imagined communism as a multifaceted threat that combined a spiritual challenge to America along with political and military challenges. Shifting back to America, Chapter 4 focuses on Eisenhower’s perception of America as a unique political system. He was convinced that gradual progress was always likely to occur within America’s existing institutions and he had confidence in the innate goodness of the national character, fueled by his belief in America’s divine mandate to be an example of freedom to the world. I then turn, in Chapter 5, to exploring Eisenhower’s unique brand of conservatism, which blends elements of traditional small government with progressivism. Although he did not fit neatly into either group, he exhibited both progressive and traditional conservative traits. Finally, I explore Eisenhower’s view of the proper relationship between religion and American society in Chapter 6. He insisted that a broad religious commitment among America’s citizens was the most important weapon for the country’s Cold War arsenal. He also argued that the basis of citizenship in America was an individual belief in a divine power. Overall, I find that understanding Eisenhower as a thinker allows the student of American politics to understand both his actions and the politics of his time in a new way.
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Kitch, John, "American Crusade: The Political Thought of Dwight Eisenhower" (2017). LSU Doctoral Dissertations. 4461.