DBWI: What if Calvin Coolidge did not run for re-election in 1928?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by victhemag, Mar 15, 2019.

  1. victhemag Well-Known Member

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    Mar 31, 2017
    Calvin Coolidge holds a legacy as one of the greatest American presidents of all time. Though his first term was relatively easy and very prosperous, Coolidge's main legacy comes from his outstanding leadership during his second term, when the Panic of 1929 struck. The economic recession was quite bad, but the economy had rebounded to normal levels by 1931. The recession turned out to be not as bad as the recession of 1920-21. Coolidge's holding fast to libertarian principles during the Panic of 1929 was unpopular among many, but as history showed, it worked, as seen in his refusal to pass the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act and his slashing of tax rates even further. This leads to an interesting question: What if Coolidge decided not to run for re-election in 1929? This would of course lead to a question of who becomes the Republican nominee. I think the nomination would ultimately go to Herbert Hoover, as do most others. However, this could lead to disastrous consequences. Hoover was one of the very few Republicans who were in favor of large government intervention in the economy, and I think this recession could have turned absolutely disastrous once Hoover signs the Smoot-Hawley Tariff. It goes without saying that the 1932 election would be an absolute landslide with the Republicans losing, IOTL the Republicans lost, but it was no landslide. Depending on who the president is (I don't think Garner would get the nomination ITTL, I think it would actually go to Franklin Roosevelt), we will get a huge government expansion into the economy, in fact I think we would see some sort of government pension system come into existence. I think America would take a tremendous shift leftwards had the Republican party been greatly discredited with a worse Panic of 1929 and allowed a liberal Democrat to come to power for a long period of time. As we all know, the GOP is definitely the dominant party in American politics now, though the Democrats have a lot of power as well.

    Also, one thing which could have literally changed all of world history. IOTL, Adolf Hitler oh-so narrowly lost the election for German Chancellor. With an even worse economy, I think this madman would have come to rule Germany. Call me crazy, but I think we could have seen another war in Europe which coincided with the Pacific War.

    Lastly, does the Solid South still demise on schedule? IOTL in the late 40’s and 50’s it started voting for Republicans on a presidential level, but the South didn’t have a majority of Republican representatives in Congress until the 1974 Republican Revolution. Does the Solid South still go this early? Personally I think it’ll be delayed by at least a decade, especially if we get an ascendant Democratic party that control’s american politics for the next decade or two, which as I said may happen ITTL.
     
  2. Tjakari Locusts and Fishbones

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    Alba Longa
    Who talks about Calvin Coolidge as one of the greatest presidents of all time?

    Outside a Prager U video?
     
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  3. victhemag Well-Known Member

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    Mar 31, 2017
    He’s usually ranked top 3, except for hardcore believers in high taxation and statist economics. It usually goes like this:
    1. Abraham Lincoln
    2. George Washington
    3. Calvin Coolidge

    It’s mainly due to his stellar leadership during the Panic of 1929 and preventing it from turning into an absolute economic catastrophe.
     
  4. David T Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2007
    OOC: This is nonsense. I think that the role of Smoot-Hawley in deepening the Depression has been much exaggerated [1], but in any event there is no reason at all to think that Coolidge would have vetoed it. Coolidge's whole record was pro-tariff; he not only supported Fordney-McCumber https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fordney–McCumber_Tariff but implemented it in a very protectionist way: "Fordney-McCumber let the president raise or lower individual tariffs, and when Coolidge used this power he almost always raised them. Coolidge also inherited (and declined to change) a Tariff Commission populated with representatives of the industries it controlled—-an unholy arrangement that lasted until eventually Congress cried foul." https://books.google.com/books?id=ogc9EZf8Ry8C&pg=PA73

    As for taxes: no doubt Coolidge preferred spending cuts to tax increases but even he acknowledged that with the Depression causing the deficit to soar, tax increases might be necessary:

    ***
    "The Great Depression brought an end to this era of fiscal largesse. By 1930, a dour Mellon was warning Congress that declining revenues would produce a soaring deficit. Ultimately, the administration of Herbert Hoover dealt with this sad reality by engineering a major tax hike in 1932. Ever since, Hoover has been vilified for his shortsighted fidelity to fiscal austerity.

    "The 1932 tax increase may have been unwise, but it was not Hoover's folly. Rather, it was a thoroughly bipartisan mistake endorsed by a comfortable majority of both parties. Expert opinion was not quite unanimous, but many economists believed large deficits would deepen the Depression and weaken the dollar.16 While a few proto-Keynesians demurred, Hoover had ample support from experts, business leaders, and even most Democrats.

    "What would Coolidge have done if still in office in 1932? Almost certainly, he would have cut spending. Throughout the early 1930s, Coolidge continued to insist that retrenchment was the only permanent solution to the government's fiscal woes.17 "Almost all our governmental units have been taxing, borrowing and spending beyond the means of the people to pay," the ex-president said.18 Unless lawmakers closed the spigot of public spending, high taxes would ruin the nation.

    "But Coolidge also acknowledged that new taxes might be necessary. In the short run, he wrote, heavy taxes on the rich might be a reasonable stopgap. Ultimately, however, lawmakers soaked the rich only at the nation's peril. Foisting the tax burden disproportionately on the fortunate few would stifle growth and might even encourage the development of a political overclass, willing to pay heavy taxes only if granted overweening political power.19

    "If new taxes were unavoidable, then they should be paid by every American, not just the rich, Coolidge reasoned. During debate over the 1932 revenue act, Coolidge championed a broad-based tax on consumption. Such a levy would raise money while avoiding the dangers of a tax system too dependent on payments by the rich, he contended. "The levies on tobacco and gasoline produce a very large revenue which is not burdensome to the consumer," he wrote. "The extension of such a system to many other commodities would seem to be in complete harmony with the spirit of a self-governing people."20

    "Calvin's Tea Party?


    "So what are we to make of Calvin Coolidge? Is he an apt poster boy for today's Tea Partiers? Not really. To be sure, his devotion to limited government jibes with most Tea Party manifestos. But his commitment to fiscal austerity doesn't quite fit. It seems likely that Coolidge would never have championed tax cuts in the face of soaring deficits.

    "Indeed, when the nation faced exactly that situation in mid-1931, Coolidge was quick to point out that too many tax cuts would have imperiled federal debt repayment in the 1920s -- one of his proudest achievements. "By retiring and refunding its debt the National Government is saving nearly half a billion dollars annually in interest," he pointed out. "The only other courses would have been more extravagant spending or reduction of taxes. Either one of these would have aggravated the present serious situation of the Treasury."21

    "Coolidge, then, was no fanatic when it came to cutting taxes. He was a man of hard truths, many of them fiscal. Solid, responsible government required taxes -- low ones, when possible, but adequate ones at every juncture..."
    http://www.taxhistory.org/thp/readings.nsf/ArtWeb/1A7917BD049B49D7852577C400643D31?OpenDocument

    ***

    So much for Coolidge "slashing...tax rates even further"--a course which he explicitly said "would have aggravated the present serious situation of the Treasury."

    The idea popularized in recent years by some conservatives and libertarians of contrasting the "non-interventionist" Coolidge with the "interventionist" Hoover simply does not stand up to scrutiny.

    [1] See my posts at https://www.alternatehistory.com/fo...-act-no-great-depression.324772/#post-9529921 and https://www.alternatehistory.com/fo...-a-multi-term-president.348959/#post-10976875
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2019
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  5. victhemag Well-Known Member

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    Mar 31, 2017
    OOC: Dude... chill . It’s just a DBWI. I wasn’t asking for a debate on schools of economics. I’ve seen DBWI’s a lot more unrealistic than this.
     
  6. David T Well-Known Member

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    Nov 8, 2007
    I was not debating the merits of different schools of economics. I was not debating whether slashing taxes and vetoing Smoot-Hawley would have been a good thing (my own view is that Smoot-Hawley should have been vetoed, though the harm the law did has been exaggerated). I was only saying that there is no reason to think Coolidge would do these things. Whether for a conventional what-if or a DBWI, plausibility matters.
     
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  7. victhemag Well-Known Member

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    Mar 31, 2017
    OOC: I mean, I’ve seen pretty ridiculous DBWI’s such as where the Vietnam War goes until present day, soo
     
  8. Amadeus Well-Known Member

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    Mar 19, 2017
    OOC: All @David T did was point out what any reasonable person could see - the scenario laid out in the original post just doesn't work. The presentation of Coolidge, Hoover, and the Great Depression flies in the face of historical reality. I would have added that much of it amounts to unfair hero worship that is clearly trying to push a certain political/ideological agenda.

    So what? I myself did a DBWI thread on Coolidge and the 1928 election only last month: https://www.alternatehistory.com/forum/threads/dbwi-calvin-coolidge-steps-down-in-1928.462342/. The outcome wasn't perfect, but at least we kept the scenario within the confines of historical reality and refrained from using AH to push our political beliefs.
     
  9. Tjakari Locusts and Fishbones

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    Location:
    Alba Longa
    I'm certain that the fat cats would agree, but for everyone else who had to live through that horrible recession such a mild assessment might not get as much traffic. The contraction of the economy after 1929 did great things for reestablishing an equilibrium for the monied classes but for the folks at the bottom that equilibrium came at the cost of their livelihoods, people starved and froze in the winter of 1930. It was something out of a Sinclair novel.

    OOC:
    I guess I waited too long to get back to the thread. Seems somebody already blasted your POD with logics.
     
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