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President Harding: Election, Achievements & a Return to Normalcy

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  • 0:01 Background Information
  • 1:23 The Path to Presidency
  • 3:28 Accomplishments
  • 5:40 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rita Kerrigan

Rita has taught elementary and middle school and has a master's degree in reading education.

Warren Harding was the 29th president of the United States. His campaign promise was to try to return the country to the state it was before World War I. He accomplished some of his goals but not nearly as many as the people had hoped for when he was elected.

Background Information

Every president of the United States has had a unique way of governing. Warren G. Harding stands out as a president who saw his role as more ceremonial than political. In the end, this hurt his career and left him with a tarnished reputation. In fact, it may have even cost him his life if the rumors that his wife poisoned him are true!

Warren Harding came from the small town of Corsica, Ohio. He was the son of two doctors and experienced an idyllic childhood with his parents and seven siblings, spending enjoyable days on the farm and swimming in nearby creeks. After graduating from college in 1882, he moved to Marion, Ohio, and worked as a newspaper reporter. In 1884, along with a few friends, he purchased and helped turn around the Marion Star, a newspaper that was on its way to bankruptcy.

He married Florence Kling De Wolfe in 1891. Florence Harding was a sharp businesswoman, and she helped manage the business aspects of the Marion Star. She was a big factor in its prosperity. Prosperity is a successful, thriving condition. She was also a huge supporter of Harding's political career and was one of the first to encourage him to become involved in politics.

The Path to Presidency

Warren Harding started his political career in the United States Senate in 1914. He was a senator for two terms and was generally well-liked, especially due to the fact that he consistently remained neutral and rarely took a strong stance on any issue. This popularity led to Harding's nomination for president at the 1920 Republican National Convention.

His campaign slogan was 'A Return to Normalcy.' He vowed to get the country back to where it was before its involvement in World War I and Woodrow Wilson's presidency full of progressive reforms. Calvin Coolidge, governor of Massachusetts, was selected as his vice president. Harding conducted a campaign from the front porch of his home in Marion, and his front lawn had to be replaced with gravel due to the thousands of people who traveled to hear him speak there.

This strong following was a positive indicator of the election's future result favoring Harding. Indeed, Harding and Coolidge beat the Democratic presidential candidate James Cox, the governor of Ohio, and his running mate, Franklin Roosevelt, a former assistant secretary of the Navy who later went on to become the nation's 32nd president years later, in a landslide election. They obtained 60% of the popular vote and 404 electoral votes (compared to just 127 for the Democrats), winning 37 states. To put this in perspective, Harding beat out Cox by seven million votes!

This was the largest landslide in election history so far and was also a notable election due to the fact that it was the first presidential election that allowed women to vote after the 19th Amendment was ratified in August 1920. Some say Harding's attractive looks cannot be ruled out as another major factor in his popularity due to this.

Accomplishments

Warren Harding admitted to friends that he was in over his head as president of the United States and is not often looked back on as a motivational president. He did have some major accomplishments during his presidency, however. He signed the first child welfare program and dealt with striking mining and railroad workers in the 1921 Blair Mountain Miner War and Great Railroad Strike of 1922. He also cut the unemployment rate in half with higher tariffs and lower taxes.

He attempted to decrease violence towards African Americans by advocating an anti-lynching bill. He also established some important bureaus - the Veterans Bureau for veteran's medical and job needs and the Bureau of the Budget. One major foreign policy accomplishment of Harding's was the signing of a new peace treaty with Germany and Austria after World War I.

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