The Sunday before Election Day 1920, the New York Times asked both presidential candidates for a short essay explaining why they deserved the White House. Here’s what they each wrote, and how their promises stack up in 2020.
Democratic candidate and Ohio Gov. James M. Cox:
There has been no time in the history of the United States in which a political party presented more of a non-partisan appeal than does the Democratic Party in 1920.
That is definitely not true of the Democratic Party in 2020 — nor, to be fair, is it true of the Republicans. Which exact party/year combo had the most nonpartisan appeal in American history can be debated, but it’s surely in the past, rather than the present or future. Alas.
The election of one man or the other, the choice between one party and the other, is of little consequence except for the purpose of securing the earliest affirmative action.
Cox here did not use “affirmative action” to mean racial preferences, as the term is used today. According to Merriam-Webster, the phrase was first used in that context in 1961. Instead, Cox referred to the U.S. potentially entering the League of Nations, the international organization created in 1920 in hopes of preventing another world war. Although Democratic President Woodrow Wilson was one of the League’s architects, the Senate would never officially approve U.S. membership, fearing encorachment on American sovereignty.
Republican candidate and Ohio Sen. Warren G. Harding:
Most of their [the Democratic Party’s] attention has been spent upon an insolent suggestion that America shall accept without change of form a membership in a particular League of Nations, as to which Americans were not consulted, and which they have long ago rejected. The election of a Democratic President, provided he kept faith with his program, would mean four more years in which a President and the representatives of the people would each be able to block action upon the part of the other.
At the time, the idea that the Senate constituted “the representatives of the people” was a fairly new concept. Senators were only elected by the popular vote nationwide starting in 1914.
The American people, therefore, will turn to the Republican Party because it offers assurance of an end of wasteful, willful and inefficient government.
And government was never wasteful or inefficient ever again.
Cox or Harding – Each Answers the Question for The New York Times
Published: Sunday, October 31, 1920