views updated Jun 11 2018


Normalcy was the term used by Republican candidate Warren G. Harding (18651923) during the 1920 presidential campaign to describe the condition of the United States prior to its entry into World War I (19141918). It was also the condition to which the nation would return, Harding promised, if he were sent to the White House. Voters liked the idea of returning to normalcy too, giving Harding the biggest plurality victory ever, 16,152,200 votes for Harding to 9,147,353 votes for Democratic nominee James Cox (18701957).

Once in office (19211923) Harding's efforts to normalize American political, social, and economic conditions met with mixed results. Part of the president's problem was defining the term "normalcy." Harding's call for "normalcy" meant a foreign policy of isolationism and a domestic policy of increased economic freedom. To meet these ends, Harding supported a repeal of the wartime tax on excess profits, a reduction of income taxes on the wealthy, a high tariff on imports, and anti-immigration laws limiting the annual number of aliens who could come to the United States. Harding also opposed U.S. membership in the League of Nations. In contrast, his Democratic predecessor, President Woodrow Wilson (19131921) helped establish that international body and urged the country to join it. Although America was prosperous during his years in office, Harding's administration is primarily remembered for its corrupt practices, which represented politics as usual to his opponents and a return to "normalcy" of a different kind. Harding has been credited by some with inventing the term "normalcy." The word, however, first appeared in American lexicon during 1857 as slang for the word "normality." In any event, Harding did help popularize the use of "normalcy" in everyday speech.

See also: Anti-Immigration Laws, Isolationism, Andrew Mellon


views updated May 08 2018


NORMALCY. In a Boston address on the eve of the 1920 presidential campaign, Senator Warren G. Harding said, in part, "America's present need is not heroics but healing, not nostrums but normalcy.…"The word "normalcy" came quickly to symbolize to many Americans a respite from the activist policies of President Woodrow Wilson. Specifically, it signified a return to a high protective tariff, a drastic reduction in income and inheritance taxes, a government crackdown on organized labor, a restoration of subsidies and bounties to favored corporate groups, an absence of government interference in private enterprise, and a nationalistic foreign policy. Harding's "back to normal" slogan propelled him to victory in the 1920 presidential election.


Ferrell, Robert H. The Strange Deaths of President Harding. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1996.

Russell, Francis. The Shadow of Blooming Grove: Warren G. Harding in His Times. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1968.

Thomas S.Barclay/a. g.

See alsoDark Horse ; Depression of 1920 ; Fourteen Points ; Laissez-Faire ; Lost Generation .