Cool Cal

Posted: April 19, 2022 by chrisharper in Uncategorized
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By Christopher Harper

As the 100th anniversary nears of his ascendency to the presidency, Calvin Coolidge is becoming cool.

Coolidge became the 30th president when Warren Harding died in 1923 and held the post until 1929, when he decided not to run. He promoted a mixture of lowering taxes, cutting the federal budget, removing the federal deficit after World War I, promoting racial harmony, and embracing America’s small-town heritage.

Coolidge is finally getting his due as a good president in a 2013 biography by Amity Shlaes and a more recent series of essays and a book about conservatives from Matthew Continetti, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Shlaes, a former journalist who heads the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation in his hometown of Plymouth, Vermont, carefully dispels many of the myths about Coolidge in her book.

Both Shlaes and Continetti want to give “Cool” Cal his due. “Cool” Cal seems a lot better than the liberals’ description of Coolidge as “Silent” Cal. 

Moreover, the misconstrued moniker fails to acknowledge Coolidge’s activities on the radio—long before FDR—and his fascination with modern technology, such as air travel. 

Although historians have placed Coolidge in the lower half of presidential accomplishments, Shlaes argues that that’s mainly because he was a conservative.

Her recalibration of Coolidge’s accomplishments argues that he’s worthy of a much higher place in presidential rankings.

Coolidge carefully steered the country through the disastrous aftermath of Woodrow Wilson’s calamitous post-World War I antics and illness and the scandals left by Warren Harding.

Continetti pushes Coolidge’s reputation into the upheavals of the 21st century, comparing Cal and Donald Trump.

“Both Coolidge and Mr. Trump staked their presidencies on voter satisfaction with broadly shared prosperity. Both supported restricting immigration into the United States. Both wanted to protect American industry from foreign competition. Both sought to avoid overseas entanglements,” Continetti wrote recently in The Wall Street Journal. “Trump’s views now dominate the Republican Party. For anyone who grew up with the GOP of Ronald Reagan, the two Bushes, and John McCain, this can be strange and bewildering. But in many respects, it’s a return to the principles of the 1920s of Coolidge.” 

Coolidge presided over a prosperous nation at peace. He preached America First—as did Trump. 

When I started my deep drive into presidential biographies about three months ago, I didn’t expect to find such an underrated president as Coolidge. 

I’d move him into my top tier of George Washington, James Monroe, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses Grant, Grover Cleveland, and Harry Truman. 

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