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Do you know who Warren G. Harding was, other than likely the only person ever to have Gamaliel as his middle name?

He was the twenty-ninth president of the United States, a Republican who won in 1920, after World War I and two terms of Democrat Woodrow Wilson. Harding ran back in the days when a major Party could have a presidential nominating convention and not know who was going to win. Harding’s manager and chief advocate, Harry Daughtery, expected that none of the leading candidates would win easily, and Harding, a well known Republican figure who had never offended anyone, won on the tenth ballot.

Harding had opposed neither voting rights for women or prohibition of alcohol, the two huge policy changes at the end of the Progressive Era, and he was the first president to win with women voting. He promised a return to calm after the tumult of the Progressive Era with its many major reforms and World War I, which looks pretty tame from the perspective of the time after World War II, but had transformed the nation by itself.

Harding was not stupid, but he was no intellectual giant. He had no apparent strong opinions about any issues of the day. He spent much of his time as president playing poker and drinking illegal alcohol with his buddies in the White House. He appointed several of his old friends to cabinet positions. Several of them would end up embroiled in various scandals and at least one would go to prison for his crimes as a Harding appointee.

He had a scandal of his own his supporters had to fend off to keep him from losing the election. He had been having an affair with a married woman in his hometown, who threatened to release steamy letters he had written to her (ninteen teens steamy — he refers to her “pillowing breasts” — nothing about yeti pubes), so his campaign gave her and her husband a chunk of money and sent them on a long cruise for the duration of the election season.

He was, in short, a pretty Trumpian figure in many ways. But the best thing about Warren Gamaliel Harding as president of the United States?!!? You’re going to love this. He DIED in office, on August 2, 1923, so two years and five months after assuming the position. Despite having high blood pressure and an enlarged heart, he decided to go on a tour in the west, including Alaska. He made it back to San Francisco, but he suffered a heart attack there and died instantly. Since his wife was alone with him when he died and refused to allow an autopsy, rumor spread that she had poisoned him. He left his entire estate to her.

It is very rude to wish death on anyone, but the old adage has it that history repeats itself. Might Trump die sometime in 2019?

Written by

Uppity gay, Buddhist, author, historian.

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