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The 1920 Election

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The election of 1920 directly followed the end of World War I. The war greatly affected how the election turned out. This was one of the most controversial elections of the 19th century. The Democrat Woodrow Wilson was highly opposed at the end of his term. He left office in a rage towards the Irish and German Americans, both of these groups were against the joining of the League of Nations. Wilson’s health declined and he could no longer speak. Theodore Roosevelt was expected to follow as the Republican candidate until his death.

Ethnic races very much influenced this election. Wilson had promised the Irish Americans that he would convince England to give the Irish their freedom. He did not and remained allies with England. This infuriated the Irish community against the Democratic Party, which most of them where a part of. On Election Day the Irish-Americans “sat on their hands” allowing the Republicans to run-away with the election in some cities.

This great election pitted two foes against each other. The Republican Warren G. Harding, the Senator from Ohio. The Democrat James M. Cox, the Governor of Ohio. Both candidates coming from the same state added to the hype and excitement of this election.

James Cox had been governor of Ohio from 1913-1919. Before that he was a representative from Ohio to the House of Representatives from 1909-1913. He was very capable and a very well-liked reformer. One reason that it is said that Cox lost was because he was a Democrat and he was a strong supporter in the US joining the League of Nations.
Warren Harding served in the Ohio Senate from 1899-1903. He then moved on to be the Lieutenant Governor of Ohio from 1903-1905. Harding finally served as a US Senator from 1915-1921. He had very conservative views on taxes and affable manner. He had a strategy of “make no enemies” which helped him get the nod as the Republican Candidate.

According to the League of Nations Cox was all for it. The only part that he had reservations on was the aspect of the US having to be involved in any war that the League of Nations declares.

Cox and Harding had very different campaign styles. Cox went to many train stations, rallies and gave many formal addresses. Harding on the other hand had people come to his home where he would address them.


Harding’s main election point was a “Return to Normalcy”. The war had just ended and he wanted to convince the Americans that everything is going to go back to the way it was.

This was a very inventive election. It was the first election that was broadcasted live by radio. All submitted results were read out to the rest of the country. People now did not have to wait for the next day’s newspaper but could find out instantly. This was a huge advancement in modernization.

As far as how the votes were distributed, Harding dominated. He ran away with it taking 60 percent of the votes, while Cox only ended up with 35 percent. The only place where Cox won states was in the south where he won almost all of the states. Cox took from Texas to Florida and north to Virginia. The whole southeast was taken by Cox. Harding on the other hand took every other state. He did not lose a county in 22 of the states while Cox only did this in two states, Alabama and South Carolina. It was the largest margin of victory of any Presidential election in history.

There is one good thing that came out of the Democratic campaign though. Cox’s running mate, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Roosevelt became the president that led America through some of its toughest times. By some he is considered the greatest president we have ever had. Three elections later Roosevelt would run, win and be the president for three more terms.

Harding went on to serve for two years before he died of a heart attack in 1923. Calvin Coolidge then took over his duties and ended up getting re-elected and he ended up a better president than the man he took over for.




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