The End of the Campaign Trail – In 1920, the White House had an open seat. Two term Democratic incumbent Woodrow Wilson had suffered a stroke and was not seeking re-election. The Republicans smelled an opportunity to recapture the presidency. But whom to nominate?
It wasn’t like nowadays. “The people” didn’t pick candidates by voting in primaries. Instead, party bigwigs came together at their national convention and hashed it out. Smokey back-room deals were the order of the day. You line up your delegates, I’ll line up mine and we’ll see who comes out on top.
The convention soon deadlocked. The governor couldn’t woo enough of the general’s supporters and vica versa. After 8 rounds of balloting, they were still the top two vote-getters, but neither had enough to claim a majority. Enter the compromise candidate.
Just as Pete Rozelle was a compromise candidate to become NFL commissioner in 1960 after NFL owners had deadlocked for 23 ballots, Republican Warren G. Harding was also a compromise candidate who stepped in when none of the top dogs in the field could reach the finish line. He scored the GOP’s nomination on the 10th ballot.
The late teens had been heady times for America. World War I was followed by: an influenza epidemic that claimed 700,000 lives; a stagflated economy suffered from inflation and high unemployment; and intense political activism that had resulted most notably in two constitutional amendments: the 19th banned alcohol, and the 20th guaranteed women the right to vote.
Harding sensed that Americans were eager to put the freneticism behind them and return to a slower pace. On the campaign trail, he promised he advocated a “return to normalcy.”
The press snickered. Why? Because “normalcy” was not an actual word; indeed, “abnormalcy” will still set your spell checker on fire. The word Harding had been looking for was “normality.” But the guy became president, the malapropism stuck, and today “normalcy” is not only in the dictionary, but it’s also the new norm, so to speak, being used more often than “normality.”
Our own frenzied period of Frankenstorms and political elections has also come to a conclusion, and we too pine for a return to normalish behavior. Harding and Rozelle did what they could to reintroduce stability in their times. Barack Obama and Roger Godell must now do what they can. The new NFL norms, confirmed yesterday, are as follows:
- We can now say with certainty that Detroit is not as good as people expected. Proof? A 10-point loss to Minny.
- The Vikings are better than people expected. See above.
- The Falcons will lose games, beginning yesterday
- New Orleans can still run and gun with the best of them. See above.
- The 49ers are the best medicore team the NFL has seen in years. Their D is tremendous, but when it’s all on the line, they can’t score. Who T F ties the Rams?
- The Texans are probably better than whomever you root for.
- The G-Men have slipped into their usual mid-season mediocrity. Then again, late season charges are also the norm under Tom Coughlin, so don’t panic just yet.
- Yes, Virgina, the Jets really do suck. It’s like the Walt Michaels era all over again. Just keep feeding Mike Augustyniak the ball.
West Coast Craig helps you return to abnormality later today at 1:30 pm EST.
Filed in: The Public Professor