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Normalcy: The New Slang

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The "Roaring Twenties" were a turbulent time in American history. The United States had just returned from the carnage of World War I and was ready to revolutionize their ideas, morals, and most importantly, their presidents. The presidential election of 1920 was a particularly integral election due to the introduction of the right of women to vote and America's social & political unrest. Warren G. Harding, a Republican, defeated Democrat James M. Cox, on a platform that urged Americans to "return to normalcy". Normalcy was a play on words of normality by Harding, which meant to conform to the norm. But the question that stood on many historians was: Why did Americans actually vote to "return to normalcy"? The simple answer was that the nation was ready to recover from their wartime anxiety and wanted a country without financial or political stress and Harding was the president that promised that to them.

Americans loved Republican Senator Warren G. Harding when he ran for president. He looked like a president, sounded like a president, and spoke vaguely on issues, so he would not aggravate any sides. But most notably, he reminded people that "'America's present not heroics, but healing; not nostrums, but normalcy'" (Pietrusza 3) and America agreed. Harding conducted a low-risk campaign that was based on the image of being the "president next door". He focused on an image consistent with America's desire for peace and tranquility. He invited voters to his front porch and used his newspaper skills (he was a former newspaper editor) to tame the press, who gave him good press (Pietrusza 225). Even his successor as president, Calvin Coolidge, used the same tactics of going on as business as usual and touring for a little while supporting patriotism, common sense in government, and "thrift & industry" which worked out equally well (Allen 140). Each of these things worked because the American voting public wanted a less politically complicated government. The public wanted to return the "good old days" where war, crimes, and international affairs were the least of the country's problems. Clearly, the American public wanted an easy going president who supported what they felt was right for the country, a break from heavy politics (post-war policies/treaties, idealism vs. capitalism, etc.).

Additionally, Americans were anxious to forget about WWI and go back to an age of innocence. Americans sought to achieve that by keeping the world at bay and focused their energy internally. Americans wanted to stay neutral and rejected president Wilson's idea for a League of Nations (Clements 168). Americans also wanted a pro-business environment where the slogan was: 'Big bucks for big businesses' (Scholastic). The public desired for industrialization at a national level so that they could be less dependent on imports and earn more money by exporting. And moreover, the Republican Party candidate Harding promised a new start by isolation from European political struggles, or simply put: a return to the old ways. With that, Harding won with an overwhelming majority. The public voiced their need for slow seclusion from the world and it was supported by Harding, which helped fuel normalcy.

While diplomats and politicians argued over peace treaties, the wartime boom had stopped. The internal affairs (domestic issues dealing with labor, money, etc.) before the1920s bore a heavy strain on the people because they were shaky, at best. This also helped fuel the American need for normalcy. In 1919, major strikes erupted within certain industries such as the meat packing and the steel industry; there were also large riots within Chicago and other major cities (Brucolli 313). The people were afraid of this unrest and wanted change. Also there was an attack on Wall Street that produced fears of radicals and terrorists (Brucolli 318). With that, Americans voted to return to peace and Harding promised that he would change conditions in the United States and improve the quality of life for people within this great country (Dean 15). It is no wonder that America, paralyzed with fear, wanted to return to normalcy.

Although some historians might argue that people voted for a "return to normalcy" because the Republican Party used Communism to scare Americans, this is simply not true. Actually, in May 1, 1920 Palmer "lost" his presidency since he was widely ridiculed for warnings of a government overthrow that never happened. It was also later revealed that Palmer deported hundreds of "communists" without actual evidence (Schweikart 422-3). Also, people were not so much afraid of communism but more of the impending danger of the instability of the post-war world as stated before. Harding, the winner, actually thought it was wrong



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