Reagan and Silent Cal — will union attacks help Wisconsin’s Governor onto GOP ticket?
“There is no right to strike against the public safety
by anyone, anywhere, any time…”
— Massachusetts Governor Calvin Coolidge to AFL leader Samuel Gompers on the “right” of Boston police to strike, September 14, 1919
“…I can’t afford to have a fire or crime committed
where there’s a gap in service. And it ultimately just boils down
to public safety…. This is our moment, this is our time to change
the course of history.”
— Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to NBC’s Meet the Press moderator David Gregory, February 27, 2011
Is Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker the next Calvin Coolidge?
Is America witnessing once again the rise of an unassuming, non-charismatic anonymous state governor — who suddenly rockets onto a national ticket and eventually into the White House by popular demand? All because of an unflinching stand against government unions?
With Republicans and conservatives busy divining whether Sarah Palin can win, if Mitt Romney is or should be toast because of RomneyCare and who is the real RINO — Huckabee or Daniels or Christie — America’s television screens are being dominated by two people. The first is your standard Middle Eastern despot of the moment — Mubarak yesterday, Qaddafi today, somebody else tomorrow. The second is entirely unexpected. That would be the pleasant-looking, black-haired guy with the bald spot and the distinctly Wisconsin accent that reminds you of exactly why Greta Van Susteren talks the way she does and what it means to be a serious Green Bay fan.
This would be, of course, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. A man who was well known exactly nowhere in America outside of his home state only weeks ago — and now gets more hourly attention in the national media than Brad Pitt received when he dumped Jennifer Aniston for Angelina Jolie.
That attention is coming Walker’s way, it is impossible not to note, precisely for the same reason as it gravitated to Coolidge: a highly public — and distinctly popular — fight over the rights of bullying public employee unions. Taxpayer-funded unions that have deliberately targeted working families and the American middle class — communicating a series of messages designed to infuriate: Your money or your kids. Your money or your safety. Your money or a phony doctor’s excuse.
In a country where history is thought to be an event that happened two hours ago on Twitter, the Coolidge episode is worth recalling in some detail — not least because Coolidge’s reputation has begun slowly ascending from the historical mists. A process that not so coincidentally began when no less than Ronald Reagan received gasps of incongruity from the liberal media for pointedly placing Coolidge’s portrait in the Cabinet Room within days of Reagan’s arrival in the White House.
So why, exactly, could Scott Walker be the new Calvin Coolidge? And why, as the GOP presidential campaign season opens with each candidate swearing they really, really love Reagan — did Reagan himself love Coolidge?
It wasn’t for reasons of charisma.
Unlike Reagan, whose movie and television stardom helped propel him into politics at the top — winning the governorship of California — Calvin Coolidge was one of the rare American presidents who scaled the political ladder rung-by-rung from the very bottom to the very top.
A Vermont native, after college in Amherst, Massachusetts, Coolidge settled in what became his adopted hometown of nearby Northampton, seven miles and across the Connecticut River from Amherst. There, like Lincoln, he “read” the law. No fancy law school for either man.
It was in Northampton that he met his wife Grace Goodhue, a darkly attractive teacher at the Clarke School for the Deaf who would become the Jackie Kennedy of the 1920s. They became members of the Edwards Congregational Church (named for Jonathan Edwards — colonial America’s most famous preacher and also a Northamptonite) as Coolidge began his professional life as a small town lawyer. His political climb began shortly thereafter, as he became successively and patiently a member of the Republican City Committee, Republican City Committee Chairman, the clerk of courts, Ward 2 city councilman, city solicitor, state representative, mayor, state senator, president of the State Senate, lieutenant governor, governor, then vice president of the United States.
And on August 2, 1923, with the sudden death of Warren G. Harding, President of the United States.
A personal note. For reasons I confess I always find… well… odd… my family’s life has intersected with Coolidge’s repeatedly. This began when my great-grandparents, Vermonters, had a farm next to that of Colonel John Coolidge — Calvin Coolidge’s father. They were, as I was told as a child, close enough as friends to be invited to the funeral of President Coolidge’s son Cal. Young Cal died tragically at sixteen after getting a blister on the White House tennis court and coming down with blood poisoning. As with Willie Lincoln’s death during his father’s presidency, the sudden death of the boy Cal broke his father’s heart — casting what would become a permanent pall of depression over Coolidge even as he was in the middle of what would be a triumphant landslide election to the presidency in his own right. Somewhere I have my grandmother on audiotape telling me that she took my father, then seven, to young Cal’s Vermont funeral in 1924. She could, she said in her late 80s, still see the grief-stricken president’s red hair glistening in the sunlight. As a memento from that fateful summer I have my father’s hand-inscribed notarized membership in the “Home Town Coolidge Club” of Plymouth, Vermont, dated June 1, 1924 and hand signed as well by the group’s president and secretary.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online