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November 10 , 2009

Stassen Again


A new investigation of the meteoric rise, lifetime of achievements, and unique persona of “boy wonder” and perennial candidate Harold E. Stassen.

In ten unsuccessful runs at the U.S. presidency, Harold E. Stassen became infamous as a perennial candidate. But his lifetime of achievements, now mostly forgotten, demonstrate his contributions to Minnesota’s political evolution, to international cooperation, and to world peace, as well as his importance to American history. It’s time to consider Stassen, again.

At the start of his career in the 1930s, extremism thrived in both state and national politics. Fear-mongering was an increasingly effective weapon in the battle for votes—and for international influence. Stassen’s leadership as the moderate “boy governor” of Minnesota, lauded by national media, revitalized the state’s Republican Party and helped pave the way for the national party’s return to power. In the middle of his third term as governor, this principled man enlisted in the navy, served in the Pacific, directed the liberation of Japanese prisoner-of-war camps, and helped write the charter for the United Nations. After the war, he served in Eisenhower’s cabinet, showing his energy and his ambition. Stassen argued successfully throughout his career for moderation, tolerance, and common sense—“the middle way”— at a time when America, and the world, was in woefully short supply of each.

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