Election of 1924

Republican prospects for retaining the White House were suspect going into 1924. President Harding had died the previous August before news of a series of scandals had become generally known. His successor, the tight-lipped Calvin Coolidge, surprised many Republican leaders by becoming a popular figure with a public that valued prosperity more than a dashing chief executive. Coolidge was renominated for a second term on the first ballot of the 1924 Republican convention in Cleveland. Charles G. Dawes of Illinois was the vice-presidential nominee in proceedings that were the first to be broadcast over radio. The united party devoted most of its energies to self-congratulation and managed to avoid an internal clash over the influence of the resurgent Ku Klux Klan; their main opponents would not be so fortunate.

The 1924 Republican platform endorsed the following:

The Democrats convened in New York in late June of 1924. The party still adhered to the two-thirds nominating rule, the futility of which was soon demonstrated. Two prime candidates emerged, but neither succeeded in garnering the needed votes. Alfred E. Smith , the talented governor of New York, was seen by his opponents as a Northerner, a product of a corrupt political machine and a Roman Catholic â€" none of which appealed to Southerner and Westerner delegates. His rival, William G. McAdoo of Tennessee, was a more restrained personality and a Protestant, but drew little support from the populous Northeast. Deliberations were drawn out in part due to the actions of delegates who supported the revived Klan, an organization that had gained political clout in many areas throughout the country. The Smith forces favored a strong plank condemning the Klan; sympathetic Democrats threw their support behind McAdoo, who was no admirer of the Klan, but willingly accepted the votes.

Finally on the 103rd ballot, the Democrats agreed on a compromise candidate. John W. Davis of West Virginia, formerly ambassador to Great Britain and a corporate lawyer with ties to J.P. Morgan, achieved the two-thirds vote for nomination. Governor Charles W. Bryan of Nebraska was selected as the vice-presidential nominee; he was the brother of The Great Commoner, but had no matching record of accomplishment. This uninspired ticket managed to offend labor and progressive voters through Davis’ conservative associations and business leaders by linking the party again with the name of Bryan.

The Democratic platform promoted:

They also held their opponents responsible for the emerging series of scandals that had occurred under Harding. The Democrats limped into the campaign sorely divided by their contentious convention marathon and were further weakened by workers who deserted the ranks to join a third party.

A variety of disaffected groups had coalesced in the early 1920s in the hope to promote progressive causes. They had enjoyed some success in the Congressional elections of 1922 and envisioned greater triumphs in 1924. The revived Progressive Party enticed Senator Robert M. La Follette of Wisconsin by granting him full power to select his own running mate and to write a party platform that called for the following:

  • public management and conservation of natural resources;
  • government ownership of the railroads and power-generating resources;
  • acknowledgement of workers' right to unionize and bargain collectively;
  • elimination of child labor;
  • dissolution of monopolies;
  • curbs on the use of injunctions;
  • opposition to the conservative policies of Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon.
Senator Burton K. Wheeler of Montana was La Follette's choice for the vice-presidential nomination. Formal endorsements of the ticket came from the American Federation of Labor , the Socialist Party and the Farmer-Labor Party. Despite this support, La Follette turned out to be the whole show. The Progressives did not trouble themselves to enter candidates in state and local races, figuring that election success in 1924 would provide a springboard to future successes at other levels.

During the campaign, the Republicans stressed their role in the return of prosperity and used the candidacy of La Follette to stir up fears of radicalism; in truth, the Progressives had no hope of winning the election, but the Republicans hinted that a three-way race might result in having the matter decided by the House of Representatives. Campaign slogans proclaimed "Coolidge or Chaos" and "Keep Cool with Coolidge."

All other issues aside, the nation's improving economic health seems to have been the prime factor in the overwhelming Republican victory in 1924. The Democrat ticket performed dismally, the Progressives respectably, gaining nearly five million votes and carrying La Follete's home state of Wisconsin.

892
Candidates
Party
Electoral
Vote
Popular
Vote
J.Calvin Coolidge (Mass.)
Charles G. Dawes (Illinois)
Republican
382
15,725,016
John W. Davis (West Virginia)
Charles W. Bryan (Nebraska)
Democratic
136
8,386,503
Robert M. La Follette (Wisconsin)
Burton K. Wheeler (Montana)
Progressive
13
4,822,856
Herman P. Faris (Missouri)
Marie C. Brehm (California)
Prohibition
0
57,551
Frank T. Johns (Oregon)
Verne L. Reynolds (Maryland)
Socialist
Labor
0
38,958
William Z. Foster (Illinois)
Benjamin Gitlow (New York)
Workers'
(Communist)
0
33,361
Gilbert O. Nations (Wash., D.C.)
Charles H. Randall (California)
American
0
23,867
W.J. Wallace (New Jersey)
J.C. Lincoln (Ohio)
Commonwealth
Land
(Single Tax)
0
2,778

See 1924 electoral vote by state.
See other domestic activities during the Coolidge administration.