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Teddy, Cal, and FDR

January 5, 2016

When Calvin Coolidge was a Massachusetts state legislator, he was a Teddy Roosevelt progressive, and he had the voting record to prove it. He supported women’s suffrage, child labor laws, and the 17th Amendment which prescribes direct election of U.S. Senators. When FDR was a New York state legislator, he too voted for the 17th Amendment. He was an avid admirer of his 5th cousin, who was also his wife’s uncle, despite belonging to a different political party.

Theodore Roosevelt probably would have become the Republican presidential nominee in 1920 if he had not died the previous year. Republican Coolidge and Democrat Franklin Roosevelt each vied for Vice President in that year’s election. Coolidge won and was later elevated to the Presidency upon the death of Warren Harding in 1923. By this time Coolidge had long since decided that enough progressive legislation had been passed and that the executive branch needed time for administration to catch up with legislation.

Coolidge was very popular when he left office in 1929. After the failure of his successor, Herbert Hoover, some thought Cal should be called back into service, especially after FDR defeated Hoover in 1932. Coolidge vehemently declined. “We are in a new era to which I do not belong, and it would not be possible for me to adjust myself to it.”

He had not publicly criticized Hoover, and he did not plan to attack Hoover’s successor. “I’ve never been much good at attacking men in public office. If they succeed, the criticism fails; if they fail, the people find out as quickly as you can tell them.”

Calvin Coolidge did not have the chance to keep his own counsel regarding FDR. He died on January 5, 1933. Franklin Roosevelt took office on March 4 of that same year. He did not do things the way Coolidge or Cousin Theodore would have done them, but that did not prevent the people from electing him President four times.

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