In addition to the economic issues in 1920, there was the horrible gashing of civil liberties under President Wilson and his Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer. This involved, as the previously stated, the deplorable treatment of both German and Irish Americans and organized labor. This hysteria was a fallout from our enemies in World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution in the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, the Post War Depression was the problem for Democratic Party. Contrary to teaching in high schools, the League of Nations was not the major issue in 1920. Most voters had employment and job security on their minds; they were almost indifferent about foreign affairs.
Both conventions chose Dark Horses from Ohio for President. This shows how divided the parties were with no real leader and the importance of Ohio in our electoral process prior to 1952. Both Vice Presidential picks ultimately became President.
The Republicans had intended to nominate Theodore Roosevelt for President in 1920. TR was still popular and most Republicans had forgiven him for his bolting the party in 1912 and, in effect, making Woodrow Wilson President. However, Roosevelt died 1919 and plans to take the White House got more complicated. At the convention in Chicago, there was a deadlock between Senator Hiram Johnson of California, Former Army Chief of Staff Leonard Wood, and Governor Frank Lowden of Illinois. None of these candidates could muster enough votes through four ballots. On the fifth ballot, Senator Warren Harding emerged as the winner. Harding was handsome, affable, lazy, and lamebrained. For Vice President, the Republican picked another intellectual light weight, Governor Calvin Coolidge of Massachusetts.
The Democrats, in a somber mood, convened in San Francisco. Some wanted to nominate Herbert Hoover for President. The Engineer and Humanitarian had won accolades as:
–Administrator of Belgian Food Relief prior to our entrance into World War I,
–Administrator of Food and Rationing in the United States after our actual entrance into that war,
–Administrator of Relief covering food and shelter throughout Europe after the war and,
–Conciliator and Negotiator at the Versailles Peace Conference between the United States, France, Great Britain, and Italy. Economist John Maynard Keynes commented on the tension, hatred, and hardline among the Allied Powers. He stated that Herbert Hoover was the only man who came out of the Versailles Meetings with an enhanced reputation.
Nevertheless, Hoover declared himself a Republican. Though too Far Left for most Democrats anyway, Herbert Hoover was probably their only hope of holding on to the White House. The front runners for the nomination were William G. McAdoo and A. Mitchell Palmer. Both were too closely allied with President Woodrow Wilson. McAdoo was Wilson’s son in law and Secretary of the Treasury. Palmer was the ruthless and tyrannical Attorney General who constantly trampled civil liberties. There is no doubt that he would have tried to establish a police state in this country. Dark Horse James M. Cox Governor of Ohio won the nomination after 43 agonizing ballots. Cox had impeccable liberal credentials. For Vice President, the Democrats chose Franklin D. Roosevelt from New York.
Both insurgent Republicans, George Norris and Robert LaFollette, had to decide who they would support.