There and back again
It occurred to me today that we have been here before.
The world seems to be falling apart--we are on the brink of the sixth mass extinction, for starters--but we have been here before. So, a little history lesson for today...
In 1923, Vice President Calvin Coolidge succeeded to the presidency upon the sudden death of Warren G. Harding. Elected in his own right in 1924, Coolidge restored public confidence in the White House after the scandals of his predecessor's administration and oversaw a booming economy. In the summer of 1927, he announced that he would not seek a second full-term as president--leaving the race wide open.
Three men vied for the Republican nomination with Commerce Secretary Hebert Hoover considered to be the favorite, in spite of Coolidge's reluctance to endorse his cabinet secretary. A draft-Coolidge movement failed to gain any momentum and failed to get Coolidge to change his mind. Hoover did not perform as well as expected in important primaries and it was thought that the president or Vice President Charles G. Dawes might accept a draft in case of a deadlock at the Convention. In the end, Hoover won the Republican nomination.
At the 1928 Democratic National Convention, Alfred E. Smith, governor of New York and leader of the Progressive movement, was elected the Democrats' candidate on the first ballot. Smith had tried twice before to win the Democratic nomination. In doing so, he became the first Roman Catholic to gain a major party's nomination for president.
At the time, Americans had a deep-rooted anti-Catholicism bent, stemming from the anti-Catholic attitudes of Protestants in Great Britain and Germany after the Reformation. This bent was a significant problem for Smith’s campaign for President. Misinformation about electing a Catholic was quickly spread. Protestant ministers warned their parishioners that Smith would take orders from the pope. Many Americans believed the pope would move to the United States to rule the country from a fortress in Washington, D.C. if Smith won. Anti-Catholic groups circulated a million copies of a fake oath supposedly taken by fourth degree Knights of Columbus members. The oath obliged those members to exterminate Freemasons and Protestants and commit violence against anyone, if so ordered by the church.
A multitude of Americans, who sincerely rejected bigotry and the anti-Catholic Ku Klux Klan (which had been on the decline during the 1920s until the 1928 campaign revived it), defended their opposition to Smith by saying that the Catholic Church was “un-American”, as they believed it was opposed to freedom and democracy.
In the end, Hoover won in an electoral landslide. Smith lost several states in the South that had been carried by Democrats since Reconstruction. The blue wall of the "Solid South" had cracked, giving the Republicans significant inroads into the South for the first time in over fifty years. Hoover had pursued a "lily-white southern strategy" to revive the Republican Party in the South. He and the national party acted to purge black Republicans from leadership positions in the southern wing of the GOP. Outraged, the black leadership largely broke from the Republican Party and began seeking candidates who supported civil rights within the Democratic Party.
Hebert Hoover is the most recent cabinet secretary to be elected President of the United States, while still in the cabinet. He was one of only two Presidents who had neither been elected to a national political office or governorship, nor served as a military general (the current President-elect will be the third). A long-time proponent of the concept that public-private cooperation was the way to achieve high long-term growth, Hoover feared that too much government intervention would undermine individuality and self-reliance, something he considered essential to the nation's future.
Less than eight months after Hoover took office in 1929, the stock market crashed and America was propelled into the Great Depression, Most academics blame the crash on stock speculation, unregulated business and banking practices along with agricultural overproduction. Hoover tried to combat the Depression with large-scale government public works projects, such as the Hoover Dam, and called on industry to keep wages high. He reluctantly approved the protectionist Smoot–Hawley Tariff, which sent foreign trade spiraling down as the act raised U.S. tariffs on over 20,000 imported goods to record levels. The economy continued to fail and unemployment rose to 25 percent.
The Hoover Administration lasted only one-term.
In 1932, Franklin Delano Roosevelt defeated Hoover, 472 electoral votes to 59. Roosevelt would usher in government programs and regulations that would lead to one of the greatest expansions of wealth in human history and the United States becoming a global super power.
[For some global/historical context:
At the end of 1928, Joseph Stalin was the leader of the Soviet Union. Benito Mussolini was Prime Minister of Italy. Hirohito had been officially enthroned as Emperor of Japan. Haile Selassie was the crowned king of Abyssinia (Ethiopia). Chiang Kai-shek had been named as Generalissimo of the Nationalist Government of the Republic of China. In Albania, Ahmet Zogu, President of the Republic, has declared the country to be a constitutional monarchy, the Albanian Kingdom, with himself as King. Adolf Hitler is the leader of the Nazi Party in Germany, where the Party has just won twelve seats in the Reichstag.
Winston Churchill was the Chancellor of the Exchequer in Britain and Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Governor-elect of New York.
And the Kellogg–Briand Pact has been signed in Paris. It is the first treaty to outlaw aggressive war.]