Two elections, precisely one century apart, have yielded two surprisingly similar presidents. Delve into American history and look at the man elected in 1920 – Warren G. Harding – and the one elected in 2020 – Joseph R. Biden – and the parallels, save party affiliation, are hard to ignore. Such as it is, the leftist media’s almost pathological desire to label everything “unprecedented” simply does not jibe with reality. Unprecedented for those with inquiring minds means “never done or known before.” There was nothing truly unprecedented about Joe Biden, the candidate, and there will likely be little if anything unprecedented about Joe Biden, the president. This assertion becomes clear the more we study the past. It can also reveal what America might expect in the coming months of a Biden presidency.
Basement or Front Porch
Historian David Pietrusza’s riveting book 1920: The Year of Six Presidents puts forth a “dazzling panorama of presidential personalities, ambitions, plots and counterplots,” but in the end, it was the least offensive man who won. Ever so reluctantly, Warren Harding threw his hat into the ring. So averse was he that supporters promised he could run his campaign much as McKinley did – from his front porch.
The senator from Ohio remained at home and held court in much the same way Joe Biden stayed safely tucked into his basement. Just about the only difference was that Mr. Biden had a “virtual” capacity to address the people, whereas Harding had to rely upon the media.
Speaking of the media …
A Kinder, Gentler Candidate
To say that the media was in love with Warren Harding is putting it mildly. Pietrusza quotes Washington journalist Edward G. Lowry, who he tags as “often-acerbic” portraying Harding thusly: “Kindliness and kindness … fairly radiate from him. He positively gives out even to the least sensitive a sense of brotherhood and innate good-will toward his fellow man.” American author Irvin S. Cobb gushed: “I think I never met a kindlier man or a man of better impulses or one with more generous and gracious opinions of his fellow man.”
Fast-forward to the 21st century: “Kindness is the point,” thundered Vox in August of 2020. “Joe Biden, unlike Donald Trump, is a decent man.” Author Zack Beauchamp went on to spell out but a few of Mr. Biden’s compassionate characteristics. “Joe Biden is the kind of man who takes time out of his day to help a person with a disability. President Donald Trump is the kind of man who uses his platform to mock one.”
Both Biden and Harding enjoyed a love affair with a fawning media.
Not My First Choice
Reeling from the bellicose and party-splitting figure of Teddy Roosevelt, the Republican Party was desperate to reach calm seas in the 1920 election. Once the bigger-than-life TR, as he was affectionately known, succumbed to a pulmonary embolism in 1919, the stage was set for the nomination of someone who could steer the conservative ship into a safe harbor. But polls revealed a lackluster showing for Harding, who came in dead last behind Hoover, Coolidge, and Taft. By all measure, Warren Harding was considered a long shot. It took ten ballots before he became the Republican nominee for president.
Joe Biden ran for president on and off for more than three decades. In 1984 Biden got the vote of one delegate – or 0.03% of the vote – at the Democratic National Convention. In 1988 Biden got two votes or 0.05% of the delegates, though he had already dropped out of the race. In 2008 he ran again, but in all three Democratic National Conventions – 1984, 1988, and 2008 – Biden never got more than 1% of the delegates.
It is quite evident that neither Biden nor Harding was a populist who enjoyed wild support from the people.
Let Us Heal, The Sequel
Though the circumstances were not similar, America post World War I versus America post domestic unrest and a health pandemic, Harding and Biden issued almost identical pleas to the public. In fact, Biden’s inaugural address has the distinct echo of Harding’s most quoted soliloquy: “America’s present need is not heroics, but healing; not nostrums, but normalcy; not revolution, but restoration; not agitation, but adjustment; not surgery, but serenity …”
In his inauguration speech on Tuesday, the newly minted president said: “We will press forward with speed and urgency, for we have much to do in this winter of peril and possibility. Much to repair. Much to restore. Much to heal. Much to build. And much to gain.”
Constructs of their respective parties, both men took office in a tumultuous time in American history and issued calls for healing and restoration.
A Scandalous Underbelly
Their respective supporters view presidents Harding and Biden as friendly, affable men. However, the rude underbelly of personal scandal lies just beneath the surface of both presidents. In Harding’s case, it was his weakness to bed women to whom he was not married. A prodigious cheater, Harding carried on lengthy extramarital affairs with Carrie Fulton Phillips and Nan Britton – with whom he fathered a child. Politico Magazine dubbed Harding “America’s Horniest President” and opined that he “[m]ight have been a useless leader, but he sure could craft a sex scandal.”
If the polling is correct, only 50% of the American public is aware of the Hunter Biden laptop scandal. Within the contents of this computer, which is in the FBI’s custody, are tawdry and bawdy dealings regarding worldwide Biden family influence peddling. Biden-the-younger is currently under federal investigation for tax fraud, and the president’s brother James is accused of defrauding medical companies. These nefarious affairs are bound to reflect upon the 46th president at some point in his administration – it is only a matter of when.
Harding’s kindly veneer was eventually exposed as nothing more than manufactured particleboard; one wonders if the same is in store for Mr. Biden.
It could be said that Warren Harding took the oath of office on borrowed time. He was not a healthy man despite his age, and to this day, questions remain about his death. Some claim it resulted from complications from a stroke; others say it was a heart attack. Harding’s widow, Florence, would not permit an autopsy on the president, who died midway through his term in office. The media was told Harding suffered stomach problems resulting from food poisoning, which has generally been debunked over the many years since his death. Harding died at the age of 57.
Having suffered two neurological aneurysms, Mr. Biden projects as a doddering 78-year-old. His many memory lapses and episodes of mental confusion have been explored at length in multiple media articles far and wide. The question regarding Biden’s mental acuity or lack thereof led to former President Trump referring to his opponent in the 2020 race as “shot.” Physically he presents as quite fragile and recently suffered a fractured foot. No one can predict the future, but four years can be a long time for someone with such a complicated medical profile.
Harding Administration scandals such as the Teapot Dome aside, history does not look kindly on the “kindliest” man from Ohio. Warren G. Harding is posthumously regarded as one of the worst presidents in American history. With so many parallels between the Republican of one century ago and the Democrat of today, one wonders whether Joe Biden’s time in office will yield little more than a lesson from yesteryear.
Read more from Leesa K. Donner.
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