David Greenberg (who also writes for Slate) had some interesting things to say about his most modern Republican. As recently as November 2011, he was writing about the Republican Party's love to Cal - Michelle Bachmann wants his face carved into Mt. Rushmore, after that of Reagan, and Sarah Palin has also expressed her admiration for the Vermonter. He's very in among conservatives, and deservedly so.
"Where winning elections had once depended on the party mobilizing a large, loyal base of voters, it now relied on an individual's ability to rouse a broad range of citizens, including those willing to split their tickets." He was the first to really take advantage of this, using the mass media to get his name out to millions and millions and millions of people in ways that hadn't been possible before. He was the first "public relations"ized president. That could cause problems too, when a president that was popular among all parties had to work within his own party if they controlled the Congress. That's been true since Calvin Coolidge, and every popular president since then has had exactly the same challenges.
"He methodically disposed of his major rivals for the nomination." Calvin Coolidge doesn't look all that cut throat, but again, he was a great politician who knew how to get elected - and surrounded himself with people who knew how to get that done too.
"Harlan Stone... would go on to a distinguished term on the Court, where he became an important voice upholding the constitutionality of the New Deal, and Franklin Roosevelt would name him chief justice in 1941." Another modern problem - what happens when your supreme court nominee moves farther to the left (or the right) years after he or she joins the bench? Probably the last thing Calvin Coolidge wanted was to nominate a New Dealer, but that's what he did.
Greenberg quotes Willa Cather: "The world broke in two in 1922 or thereabouts" Old fashioned Calvin Coolidge more than adequately bridged that gap. He might have seemed Victorian, but he was really quite a modern man.
Calvin Coolidge (The American Presidents, #30 by David Greenberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Calvin Coolidge is the darling of the Republican Party (after Ronald Reagan, Michele Bachmann said that Silent Cal should have his head up there on Mt. Rushmore). Rightly so too - Coolidge is the first truly modern Republican president. Every president from Benjamin Harrison on has been called the first modern president, but its Coolidge who walks and talks like Mitt Romney (minus the moral majority). Low tax, no spend, deregulate, pro business - Calvin Coolidge was the first Republican president to espouse these traits (perhaps Warren Harding would have done the same, if he'd lived long enough). Coolidge was also the first true master of spin - on the death of corrupt Harding, Coolidge came out of it all smelling like a rose, and turned what could have been a liability into asset; the first real master of modern media -- he courted and manipulated radio, movie moguls and newspapers. He also had a PR man, another first. He was a slick politician, in all the best senses of those words. David Greenberg's portrait of Calvin Coolidge is humanizing (the death of Coolidge's son was heartbreaking for the president) and informative. While not exactly an entertaining read, Greenberg's writing is good enough to be enjoyable for lovers of history in general and presidential history specifically.
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