by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
In the 1920 presidential election, Warren Harding won in a landslide by promising a “Return to Normalcy.” Today’s Democrats would be wise to make that same pledge for 2020. They probably won’t, however, which is why President Trump might get re-elected.
Harding’s concept of normalcy has been ridiculed and reviled by progressives and liberal historians for 100 years. Some falsely claim it was merely a call for a return to the isolationism of the prewar years. But Harding wasn’t just tapping into the unpopularity of the First World War; he also spoke to Americans’ worries about the widespread domestic turmoil and tumult of the Progressive Era. Race riots, labor violence, anarchist terror bombings, the Red Scare, Prohibition, widespread censorship, political oppression, and mass arrests were also on voters’ minds. …
… Nothing in the last two years — or two decades — approaches the turmoil of the Woodrow Wilson administration, but that doesn’t change the fact that a lot of Americans feel like they’ve been through the wringer. That feeling has defined our politics for a long time — from the Clinton scandals to the Iraq War to the financial crisis and the fights over Obamacare — bringing us one “change election” after another. But politicians often seem to miss that the change many voters are looking for is a reversion from the abnormal to the normal.
Given the roaring economy, with near full employment and rising wages, a normal president would lie back and avoid fueling the unease that has kept Trump from breaking through the 50 percent approval ceiling. But he is clearly incapable of doing that, which creates an opportunity for Democrats to win, despite a healthy economy.