Warren G. Harding

Warren G. Harding

Warren Gamaliel Harding (November 2, 1865 – August 2, 1923) was the 29th President of the United States (1921–1923). A Republican from Ohio, Harding was an influential self-made newspaper publisher. He served in the Ohio Senate (1899–1903), as the 28th Lieutenant Governor of Ohio (1904–1906) and as a U.S. Senator (1915–1921). He was also the first incumbent United States Senator and the first newspaper publisher to be elected President. It was Harding who first used the phrase "Founding Fathers," including it in his keynote address to the 1916 Republican National Convention.

His conservatism, affable manner, and make-no-enemies campaign strategy made Harding the compromise choice at the 1920 Republican National Convention. During his presidential campaign, in the aftermath of World War I, he promised a return of the nation to "normalcy". This "America first" campaign encouraged industrialization and a strong economy independent of foreign influence. Harding departed from the progressive movement that had dominated Congress since President Theodore Roosevelt. In the 1920 election, he and his running mate, Calvin Coolidge, defeated Democrat and fellow Ohioan James M. Cox in the largest presidential popular vote landslide (60.36% to 34.19%) since popular vote totals were first recorded in 1824.

President Harding rewarded friends and political contributors, referred to as the Ohio Gang, with financially powerful positions. Scandals and corruption, including the notorious Teapot Dome scandal, eventually pervaded his administration; one of his own cabinet and several of his appointees were eventually tried, convicted, and sent to prison for bribery or defrauding the federal government. Harding did however make some notably positive appointments to his cabinet.

In foreign affairs, Harding spurned the League of Nations, and signed a separate peace treaty with Germany and Austria, formally ending World War I. He also strongly promoted world Naval disarmament at the 1921–1922 Washington Naval Conference, and urged U.S. participation in a proposed International Court. Domestically, Harding signed the first child welfare program in the United States and dealt with striking workers in the mining (Battle of Blair Mountain) and railroad industries (Great Railroad Strike of 1922). He also cleaned up the Veterans Bureau (World War Adjusted Compensation Act) in March 1923. The nation's unemployment rate dropped by half during Harding's administration. In August 1923, President Harding suddenly collapsed and died during a stop in California on a return trip from Alaska. Vice President Calvin Coolidge succeeded him.

Historians have traditionally been resistant to giving Harding good presidential reviews due to the multiple federal department scandals during his administration; as a result, Harding has received low rankings as President. His reputation, however, has increased among some historians for his conservative financial policies, fiscal responsibility, and his endorsement of African American civil rights. Harding's creation of the Budget Bureau was a major economic accomplishment that reformed and streamlined wasteful federal spending. In 1998, journalist Carl S. Anthony stated Harding was a "modern figure" who embraced technology and culture and who was sensitive to the plights of minorities, women, and labor. President Harding contended with racial problems on a national level, rather than sectional, and openly advocated African American political, educational, and economic equality inside the Solid South.

Read more about Warren G. Harding:  Presidency: 1921–1923, Personal Controversies, Historical Ranking As President, Life Legacy, Memorials, Media Portrayals, Documentaries

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    Warren G. Harding invented the word “normalcy,”
    And the lesser-known “bloviate,” meaning, one imagines,
    To spout, to spew aimless verbiage.
    John Ashbery (b. 1927)

    The oaks, how subtle and marine!
    Bearded, and all the layered light
    Above them swims; and thus the scene,
    Recessed, awaits the positive night.
    —Robert Penn Warren (1905–1989)

    To be perfectly honest, what I’m really thinking about are dollar signs.
    —Tonya Harding (b. 1970)