Friday, August 14, 2015
Reconsidering Warren Harding
That’s a shame because, unlike the DNA samples from the Harding and Britton families, the reputation of Warren Harding the man and the record of Warren Harding the Republican politician do not match. At the time of his death, Harding enjoyed tremendous popularity. It was only later, when details of his infidelity scandalized the nation, that his legacy took a nosedive. Our obsession, past and present, with Harding’s sex life has obscured the truth: This man was a good president.
Among his more important accomplishments was stabilizing the country and the world after the catastrophic war in Europe, a true Armageddon that left most “civilized” nations in economic, political and social chaos. The United States alone was capable of steadying the world. Harding started by lifting our country out of a sharp postwar depression and then placed the federal government on a budget for the first time — establishing the Office of the Budget (the forerunner of the modern OMB).
He addressed severe racial tensions that the war stirred up, in part because of the great migration of African Americans to the North to work in war industries. Harding traveled to Birmingham, Ala., in his first year in office to deliver a courageous civil rights speech. “Democracy is a lie,” he said, without political equality for black citizens. He also supported a federal anti-lynching law.
Harding oversaw the first world arms limitation treaty, the Washington Conference, aimed at reducing the number of battleships in the world. He formally ended the war with Germany and its allies.
Read the rest here.
I have long felt that Harding has gotten a bum rap from the usual suspects in academia. My own take is that he was an amiable, moderately progressive (for the time) president who was not a great judge of character in some of his appointments. Overall I'd give him a B- for a grade. I am of course much more a fan of his successor who I regard as by far our most underrated president, Calvin Coolidge.