President Irvine Lenroot

Irvine L Lenroot.  Almost President.

Senator Lenroot attended the 1920 Republican National Convention at the Blackstone Hotel in Chicago, and after the selection of Harding as the GOP nominee for president, GOP leaders decided that the progressive Lenroot would be a balance to a ticket with the more conservative Harding. By June 12, a Saturday night, many of the delegates had gone home, along with most of the party bosses. After Lenroot’s name had been placed in nomination and seconded, but before a vote could be taken, an Oregon delegate, Wallace McCamant [1], nominated Coolidge for vice-president. [2] Unfettered by party bosses, the delegates weighed in for Coolidge, who received 674 votes to Lenroot’s 146 and won on the first ballot.

There is a Road Not Taken aspect to this.  I read the two or three relevant pages regarding the 1920 Republican Convention in the new Calvin Coolidge biography by Amity Shlaes (kind of the only thing I was mildly curious with this figure)– Coolidge is that perpetual and / or recurring hero to Conservatives who want to champion a supposed “Do Nothing” President in order to thumb their noses at the “Do Stuff” Presidents.  You know the guy — did Supply Side before Supply Side even existed, and slept a lot.  “The Business of America is Business”.  And

She has written a very impressive biography titled simply “Coolidge,” wherein she never mentions Cal’s naps but rather what made him the most successful president of the 1920s…

… Yes.  More successful than Warren Harding and Herbert Hoover.

A funny situation with Coolidge’s ascension in the place that otherwise would have otherwise gone to Irvine Lenroot.  The “Smoke Filled Room” which decided to break up the Convention deadlock and put in Warren Harding decided to go with Irvine Lenroot for conventional vote-splitting purposes.  I don’t know what Lenroot’s “Progressive” credentials were, but that’s what he was considered.  Harding was your pliable conservative — though, he did apparently did the “all things to all people” trick and myriad “progressive” issues he never had any intention on following through on.

The main problem the hordes of Western Progressive Republican delegates (recall that just 8 years earlier Theodore Roosevelt beat Taft in the general election in a Republican split) had with Vice President Lenroot was… it was being rammed down their throats, just off the heels of Warren Harding for President being rammed down their throats.  So when an Oregon delegate began a march for the arch-conservative Calvin Coolidge (best known for Union busting) — they vented their frustrations at this convention debacle and landed on Coolidge.  And this cemented the definition of the Republican Party going into the Great Depression and after, otherwise it might have actually been the party of Teddy Roosevelt.

Unclouded by this issue, Lenroot would have been the majority’s guy.  Coolidge the guy for the odd delegate in Oregon.  And this is that classic focusing like a laser-beam on procedure at the expense of all else, I suppose.

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