In the election of 1924 as the incumbent president, Calvin Coolidge is looking to stay in the oval office but he has got to take on not one but two adversaries to make it happen…
Harding’s Presidency & The Teapot Dome Scandal
If you recall from the 1920 presidential election article, Ohio Senator Warren G. Harding became the 29th president of the United States after a massive victory and Harding is looking to return the U.S. back to some normalcy after the previous years saw so much bedlam and death following the end of the first world war.
During his time in office, President Harding was an advocate for anti-lynching laws and racial equality especially in the South as the Ku Klun Klan was rising back into popularity around this decade.
Harding also signed various acts which went on to improve the country’s highway system, restricting immigration, balancing the country’s budget, oversaw the creation of numerous hospitals that would help former U.S. veterans and women alike and he even managed to withdraw U.S. soldiers out of Cuba after years of intervention under the Wilson adminsration.
By far the biggest thing to occur under Harding’s presidency was a rebounding economy due his hands off style of politics to business also referred to “Laissez Faire Economics”, however Harding’s time in office was doomed to fail after appointing many of his friends to positions within his administration with many of them being absolutely corrupt.
This is well documented in the Teapot Dome Scandal which saw Secretary of the Territory, Albert B. Fall leasing out areas of land in Wyoming to private companies that could use the oil for profits and this became the biggest political scandal in U.S. history until Watergate in the 1970’s.
Tragically on August 2nd, 1923 President Warren G. Harding died at the age of 57 while his wife, Florence was reading The Saturday Evening Post to him after an extensive cross country trip left him feeling exhausted.
Some were not entirely sure how President Harding died at the time as his death was so sudden, but Harding unbeknownst to the general public had a history of health problems from his habit of drinking and smoking not to mention he contracted influenza years prior further complicating his already questionable health.
Many speculated that Harding’s death was the cause of food poison, a cerebral hemorrhage or the most outlandish claim that his wife poisoned him as result of President Harding’s numerous extra marital affairs and the fact she didn’t want an autopsy done on her husband, however it was a heart attack that ultimately led to Warren G. Harding’s passing.
The New President
With Harding’s unexpected death, Vice President Calvin Coolidge was woken from his sleep in the early hours of the night and sworn as the 30th president in U.S. History on August 3rd, 1923.
Not long after becoming the new commander and chief, Coolidge begins the process of opening up investigations into the Teapot Dome Scandal and others corrupt activities that involved the men appointed to Harding’s cabinet. While Harding himself didn’t know much about the corruption within his administration, Teapot Dome ended up destroying his post presidential legacy and Coolidge’s efforts in purging the White House of all this corruption helped to make him appear as an effective leader at a time when the country needed it.
By the time Coolidge took over as president, the economy was at an all-time high thus leading to “The Roaring Twenties”, a period that saw a large amount of wealth, hedonism and success for most in America; Coolidge decides to continue the Laissez Faire policies that occurred under his predecessor and much like former Republican President Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge is looking to win a presidential election on his own terms.
At the 1924 Republican Convention, Calvin Coolidge was able to fend off challengers looking to get the party’s nomination including Hiram Johnson, who was the former progressive Governor now progressive Senator from California with many in Coolidge’s inner circle putting another guy with a similar name to Johnson on the ballot as a way to confuse much of the delegates.
In the end, Coolidge got the Republican Party’s nomination with Charles Dawes as his running mate, initially Coolidge was hoping to get Frank Orren Lowden the former Governor of Illinois as his pick for VP but he declined the offer, so the GOP went with Dawes who was best known for the ‘Dawes Plan’ which would provide aid to the struggling Germany economy following WWI as Coolidge’s running mate.
A Death in the Family
Today, Calvin Coolidge is known to some for his taciturn demeanor which has led to his nickname “Silent Cal”, but he was also known back in his time as the president who took a lot of naps during his time in office.
While it may sound unusual for a president to spend most of his time in office sleeping for long hours, it’s only been discovered in recent years that the cause for Silent Cal’s pension for naps may actually be a coping mechanism for the depression he suffered over the death of one of his children.
Few days after winning the Republican Party’s nomination, one of Calvin Coolidge’s sons, Calvin Coolidge Jr. was suffering from sepsis after a tennis match near the White House where Coolidge Jr. didn’t wear any shoes or socks leading to him getting a blister on one of his feet.
Due to the lack of medicine to treat the infection at this time, the end result was basically inevitable as the 16 year old boy would die from blood poisoning on July 7th 1924. The death of the family’s youngest son led to much sorrow within the Coolidge family with Silent Cal especially taking it hard as he blamed himself for his son’s death as Coolidge Jr. died during his father’s time in office and this led to countless hours of sleeping for the 30th president in order to cope with the depression he was suffering.
Despite this however, Coolidge still continued to work and looked determined to win an official term in office, even if the magic Silent Cal had in being POTUS was swept away with the death of his son.
Chaos In the Democratic Convention
With Silent Cal being nominated by the GOP for the up-and-coming election, the Democrats needed to choose a candidate that could stand a chance against the incumbent president.
The two leading candidates trying to get the nomination were William Gibbs McAdoo, the former Secretary of the Treasury under the Wilson administration and Al Smith, the then Governor of New York who was running a second time to be the party’s nominee.
Smith and McAdoo were polar opposites in more ways than one with Al Smith being not only a Northerner but a Roman Catholic who opposed Prohibition, while McAdoo was a Protestant Southerner who supported Prohibition and was loved by the infamous Ku Klun Klan, who just so happened to be a major issue in the convention as some wanted a platform condemning the KKK, but Southern Democrats were not on board.
Once the balloting began, it was a back-and-forth race between the McAdoo and Smith supporters to get the most votes with violence even breaking out between some of the delegates until the it became clear that neither man would enough votes to get the nomination.
In order to break up the deadlock within the convention, the party bosses decide on a compromise candidate that both Southern and Northern Democrats could support.
They ended up choosing John W. Davis, the former Ambassador to the United Kingdom and former U.S. Representative from West Virginia; Davis wasn’t well known by many in his party and most Democrats weren’t too enthusiastic about their party’s pick for nominee, but they just went along with.
Davis’s running mate in this election was the then Governor of Nebraska, Charles Wayland Bryan who was the younger brother of former presidential nominee William Jennings Bryan, but this and Davis’s policy ideas still weren’t enough to excite the base within the Democratic Party.
So those are the candidates for the two major parties, but we still have one more character to mention before get into the results.
Fighting Bob to The Rescue
Due the corruption that surrounded both political parties by way of the Teapot Dome Scandal and the fact that both Davis and Coolidge virtually believed in the same policies of small government, less taxes, less regulations and supporting prohibition…The American people weren’t too excited about this election and others were looking for another option to vote for in this race and this came in the form of Robert La Follette Sr.
A progressive titan and legendary Senator from Wisconsin, Robert La Follette Sr. also known as “Fighting Bob” spend the majority of his political career fighting for the things regulating monopiles, supporting labor unions and social welfare, plus his was a big opponent of not only shady corporations exploiting their workers but also against child labor and corruption within politics…in other words he was the 19th & early 20th century version of Bernie Sanders.
After failing to get the Republican Party’s nomination for president, La Follette decides to leave the GOP and create a new Progressive Party with the support of other likeminded individuals, however this party was different from the one Theodore Roosvelt created in 1912.
The Progressive Party’s platform in this election pushed to end U.S. imperialism in foreign nations, reducing cronyism in Washington, passing child labor laws and government ownership of railroads.
“Fighting Bob” easily became the Progressive Party’s nominee for president with Burton Wheeler, a progressive Senator from Montana as his running mate; La Follette’s plan in this election is to try and gather up as much votes he can from many Democrats who were unsatisfied with John Davis as the party’s nominee while also drawing in a few Republicans who supported his progressive ideas.
So those are the three candidates running in this election, now it’s time to see which one of these three will come out on top by looking at the results.
As you can see from the electoral map above, Calvin Coolidge easily won the election with 382 electoral votes and 54% of the popular vote allowing him to remain America’s 30th president.
John Davis came in second place with 136 electoral votes and 28.8% of the popular vote. In addition to losing his home state to Coolidge in this election, Davis’ popular vote win was the second lowest for a Democratic presidential nominee since John C. Breckinridge in the election of 1860.
Robert La Follette Sr. came in third place with only 13 electoral votes coming from his home state of Wisconsin, but pulled in an impressive 16.6% of the popular vote as his support was pretty consistent across the country but not enough to get more electoral votes.
Tragically “Fighting Bob” would die on June 18th, 1925 due to complications from pneumonia just days after his 70th birthday leading to the Progressive Party once again falling apart upon the death of their leader, but La Follette did have the best performance in the electoral and popular vote for a third party candidate since Theodore Roosevelt in 1912.
Mostly thanks to successful economy and cleaning up much of the corruption following the Teapot Dome Scandal, allowed Calvin Coolidge to pick up a landslide victory in the election and officially earning himself an official term as President of the United States.
So that’s the election of 1924, Silent Cal has gone from VP to POTUS to wining an official term in office in less than a year, and his looking to continue this success and prosperity as we head into the election of 1928 in the next article.