What Barack Obama Can Learn From Warren G. Harding

Revisionist historians put a premium on the presidential commitment to civil rights. So what does that mean for Warren G. Harding?

Last month CSPAN released a survey ranking all American presidents on their rights records. There are no big surprises, though Grant moved up the list and Andrew Johnson slipped based on their policies regarding slavery and Reconstruction. But one name oddly comes in dead last: Warren G. Harding.


Certainly there were scandals  and crooked politicians in the Harding administration. His sordid personal life did not help his reputation but neither did his womanizing hurt the legacy of other presidents. H.L. Menken had a field day blasting Harding’s mangled speaking style which in hindsight makes the Bush lexicon look elegant.

But the succeses were many. The Harding administration slashed taxes, spurred unprecedented economic growth, and even managed to balance the budget. Unemployment dropped from 12% to 3%. And while not a fan of the League of Nations, Harding was no isolationist and his presidency backed international disarmament and a global court.

Perhaps motivated by questions over his own ethnicity, Harding spoke out against lynching and terminated Woodrow Wilson’s executive order enforcing de facto segregation in the federal government. In 1921 Harding gave a passionate speech in Birmingham calling for equal rights for all. Sure Harding was a cad who liked the ladies and closed his eyes to corruption inside his administration, but he could hardly be called a throwback to the pre-Civil War adminsitrations.

President Obama would do well to take a few pages out of Harding's playbook. In Tuesday's press conference,  Obama noted that, while the economy has been his chief focus, civil rights and race remain issues. Certainly a conservative Republican is an unlikely model, but, if the economy and civil rights are the top issues for the new president, he could do no better than look at the example of our misbegotten 29th president.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

26 ultra-rich people own as much as the world's 3.8 billion poorest

The Oxfam report prompted Anand Giridharadas to tweet: "Don't be Pinkered into everything's-getting-better complacency."

Getty Images and Wikimedia Commons
Politics & Current Affairs
  • A new report by Oxfam argues that wealth inequality is causing poverty and misery around the world.
  • In the last year, the world's billionaires saw their wealth increase by 12%, while the poorest 3.8 billion people on the planet lost 11% of their wealth.
  • The report prompted Anand Giridharadas to tweet: "Don't be Pinkered into everything's-getting-better complacency." We explain what Steven Pinker's got to do with it.
Keep reading Show less

People who constantly complain are harmful to your health

Moans, groans, and gripes release stress hormones in the brain.

Photo credit: Getty Images / Stringer
popular

Could you give up complaining for a whole month? That's the crux of this interesting piece by Jessica Hullinger over at Fast Company. Hullinger explores the reasons why humans are so predisposed to griping and why, despite these predispositions, we should all try to complain less. As for no complaining for a month, that was the goal for people enrolled in the Complaint Restraint project.

Participants sought to go the entirety of February without so much as a moan, groan, or bellyache.

Keep reading Show less
Videos
  • Facebook and Google began as companies with supposedly noble purposes.
  • Creating a more connected world and indexing the world's information: what could be better than that?
  • But pressure to return value to shareholders came at the expense of their own users.
Keep reading Show less