One Hundred years in the past, President Warren Harding died unexpectedly.
Occupying the White Home for somewhat greater than two-and-a-half years, he was a well-liked President, having been elected with the most important margin of victory of any presidential candidate earlier than or since.
Following his demise, a number of scandals, each private and non-private, tarnished his repute and obscured a number of vital accomplishments.
Although he had been concerned in Ohio state politics, the best state workplace Harding ever held was lieutenant governor; he had been defeated in his lone try for governor. He later ran efficiently for the US Senate.
On the 1920 Republican conference, a number of regional factions deadlocked the balloting and no consensus candidate materialized. When celebration leaders met within the proverbial smoke-filled room, Harding emerged because the compromise presidential nominee.
In certainly one of historical past’s coincidences, Democrats tapped Ohio Gov. James M. Cox as its nominee in opposition to Ohio Senator Harding, one of many few situations when two common election candidates from the identical state opposed one another for the presidency.
In contrast to his opponent, Harding didn’t interact in a frenetic nationwide marketing campaign. He capitalized, for probably the most half, on the failures of the Woodrow Wilson administration and the dissension throughout the ranks of the Democratic Get together.
He would win the presidency with greater than 400 electoral votes.
The financial system Harding inherited was in shambles. The nation was simply getting settled after the dislocations of World Struggle I, revenue tax charges exceeded 70 p.c, authorities rules of trade have been vital, and unemployment was on the rise.
To handle the challenges of a sluggish nationwide financial system, Harding appointed Andrew Mellon as Treasury Secretary. Mellon was a banker and technocrat who understood finance and economics higher than anybody. With Harding’s approval he proposed an financial coverage that created the “Roaring ‘20s.”
Given such excessive charges of confiscatory revenue taxation, capital was not correctly employed as excessive wage earners noticed no incentive to work arduous and pay greater than 70 p.c of their earnings in taxes. The rich saved their cash in protected investments like low yielding authorities bonds that shielded curiosity revenue from taxation.
Fifty years forward of the Laffer Curve, Harding advocated laws that finally decreased the best tax price to 25 p.c, and utterly exempted many decrease revenue earners from taxes. On the expense facet of the ledger, he considerably decreased authorities spending and established a separate funds workplace to use enterprise rules to authorities administration. The end result was report development and low unemployment.
The Harding administration was not in favor of an interesting international coverage, and restricted any US involvement in world affairs. One vital exception was internet hosting a disarmament convention to drive the foremost world powers to restrict development of huge naval vessels. However, like most disarmament or different worldwide treaties, except there may be an effort at monitoring compliance with an enforcement mechanism, the treaty is merely a cordial settlement that over time is noticed within the breach.
Given Harding’s overwhelming recognition, he was invited to go to the Deep South and assist rejoice the fiftieth anniversary of the Metropolis of Birmingham. Presidential visits on such events are normally non-controversial and completely celebratory in nature. Nobody would have faulted President Harding for the usual congratulatory remarks, however he had a unique concept.
To an assembled crowd that totaled greater than 100,000, Harding addressed the difficulty of race relations head on. This could not have been an excessive amount of of a shock, as Harding strongly supported anti-lynching laws that levied a $10,000 effective in any county by which a lynching occurred and gave federal courts jurisdiction to prosecute native officers for failing to behave and indict perpetrators for homicide.
When he mounted the podium in Capitol Park, Harding noticed the clearly segregated viewers. And whereas he used the event to congratulate Birmingham on its industrial development and contributions to financial improvement, he pivoted and customized his remarks to advocate for racial equality.
In phrases that also resonate in the present day, Harding mentioned, “I consider in absolute equality within the paths of information and tradition, equality of alternative for many who attempt, equal admiration for many who obtain. I need to see the time come when black males will regard themselves as full individuals in the advantages and duties of American citizenship.”
In any other case, he mentioned, “Whether or not you prefer it or not, our democracy is a lie except you stand for that equality.”
As these remarks have been spoken, loud applause got here from the segregated black facet of the park whereas stony silence emanated from the white facet. This was the primary time that any nationwide Republican so instantly challenged the reigning segregation orthodoxy within the South. Whereas southern leaders dismissed these remarks, others noticed this as the start of a nationwide sea change in coping with racial politics.
In talking reality to energy, Harding’s braveness can be attacked by the enemies of justice and basic equity. Although his administration tried to maneuver ahead on a few of his initiatives, he was unable to muster the votes within the senate to cross civil rights laws.
Even President Franklin Roosevelt, who had vital majorities in each homes, later refused to champion Harding’s anti-lynching initiatives throughout his personal administration for concern of dropping southern votes.
Lower than three years into his time period, Harding died all of the sudden from what most historians attribute to a coronary heart assault prompted by long-term cardiac points.
His premature demise resulted in a big outpouring of grief, particularly amongst those that had heard his speech and witnessed his sincerity, however Harding’s braveness in addressing the difficulty of race in Birmingham is essentially forgotten in the present day.
When a number of scandals got here to mild after his demise, Harding’s recognition waned. Whereas he was by no means personally implicated nor accused of benefiting from his place, most of the mates Harding had positioned in positions of authority have been.
Regardless that a number of cupboard members suffered the results of their greed, Harding’s repute has not recovered from the corruption of his vainglorious mates.
However the scandals, Harding’s legacy for electoral success, financial achievements, and nationwide wealth stay unsurpassed.