Campaigning from Porch and Stump

1920 Republican presidential candidate Warren Harding was accused of holding few true political beliefs:

When one speaks of Harding, of course, one means the unincorporated syndicate that goes by that name, headed by Senator Lodge and consisting of perhaps a dozen members of the Senate, including the one from Ohio, Mr. Harding… When Harding speaks one can see the vocal cords moving in the throat of the Senate, as happens sometimes with amateur ventriloquists. So, it may be, would be the case if Senator Harding became President Harding. It is what he means and they mean by “plural government,” though, of course, the President would have a voice in the caucus, as, indeed, he has now.

Harding won in a landslide, one of only four presidential elections in the past century in which the winner received at least 60 percent of the popular vote. Maybe it was that very vagueness which helped him. As another New York Times article that year said of Harding:

“It is complained that the President is too verbose and too vague. But this is … to miss entirely the point of popular acceptance. In the President’s misty language the great majority see a reflection of their own indeterminate thoughts.”

Clearly, the American public felt differently with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s version of Alexander Hamilton, who in the song The Election of 1800 declared his preference for a presidential candidate with concrete opinions, even ones he vehemently disagreed with, rather than a blank slate:

The people are asking to hear my voice

The country is facing a difficult choice

And if you were to ask me who I’d promote

Jefferson has my vote

I have never agreed with Jefferson once

We have fought on like seventy-five different fronts

But when all is said and all is done

Jefferson has beliefs… Burr has none

 

 

Campaigning from Porch and Stump (PDF)

Published: Sunday, August 1, 1920

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Written by Jesse

July 30th, 2020 at 10:23 am

Posted in Politics

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