1924: Utah stays cool with Coolidge, votes Dem for governor
The publisher of The Sun newspaper was a happy man on Nov. 5, 1924. His blatantly Republican newspaper had another GOP candidate in the White House for another four years.
"An annihilation of the 'Democratic party' seemed to be indicated by the returns coming in last evening," the paper stated in the opening sentence of a story touting the election of Calvin Coolidge as President of the United States on Nov. 7, 1924.
That Presidential election was almost a given for the Republicans, because similar to circumstances in the 1912 election when the GOP was split by Teddy Roosevelt running as an independent for the Bull Moose Party, the Democrats in 1924 could not keep their house together. Coolidge had taken over as President just the year before because of the death of Warren Harding, who had been elected in 1920. This not only gave him the incumbency, but also a feeling that the good times could keep on going with the man who had been just behind the president who had given the country's economy such a boost. In fact, Coolidge's campaign slogan was "Keep cool with Coolidge."
The Democrats certain doom took place during the longest political convention ever held. In June William McAdoo of California and Al Smith of New York, standing on opposite sides of important issues at the time, would not give in to the pressure to go with one another into the election. McAdoo was supported by the more conservative side of the party, people from rural areas and those for prohibition. These supporters were known as "drys." Smith on the other hand wanted to do away with prohibition and was supported by the "wets." Those people included big city dwellers and liberals in the party.
Another big elephant in the room was the Ku Klux Klan. It was at its height of power at the time, with some estimates giving the Klan a membership of between four and seven million people. McAdoo's supporters wanted to leave the Klan alone while Smith's support came largely from those who wanted to see it wiped out.
The balloting at the convention went on for days (100 ballots counts were cast) with not much movement either way. Finally with the convention's strength and determination waning the party worked out a compromise candidate, John Davis, a former Congressman from West Virginia on the 103rd ballot count.
The situation was complicated even more by a politician from Wisconsin named Robert La Follette who had left the Republican Party because it had become so conservative. When the Democrats named Davis, another Conservative as their candidate, La Follette formed his own party, the Progressive Party, and he ran for President. He became the only candidate that was willing to condemn the Klan, oppose big business and stand for leftist principles. His support came largely from the American Federation of Labor and liberals. His candidacy took votes mostly from the Democrats, but did affect some voting for Coolidge as well. While he pulled a significant number of votes away from the Democrats in the general election, the only state he actually won was Wisconsin, his home state.
In actuality, no matter who was nominated from the Democratic party that year would probably have lost. The economy was in a boom and the problems in the rest of the world seemed remote after the Great War ended. Things were good for many people.
The paper mentioned that locally, absentee votes were becoming important in every election. After only a few years of allowing that type of voting, the county was seeing increased use of the "Vote where you ain't" service, as The Sun put it.
The election in the state largely went Republican too. That was with the exception of the state electing George Dern, a Democrat, as Governor. The Republican-leaning paper took that as a sign of a healthy electorate, repeating the fact that time and time again voters definitely do not need an education in how not to vote a straight party ticket.
"That a great state can go over with a big majority for a presidential candidate and a full set of subordinate state officials (everyone in state and federal offices that won were Republican except Dern) on one party ticket while giving the governorship to a candidate on the opposing list goes to show that in Utah there is no need for education of the voters as 'how to scratch' but that the folks here vote as they please, regardless of partly lines," stated the paper in the Nov. 14, 1924 edition when reporting on the voting canvass that took place that week.
In the local area, however, the Republicans did not do as well. The Democratic leanings of the county not only helped elect Dern, but put mostly Democrats in the local seats at the county level.
Only a few years later, things would be very different. When "Black Tuesday" arrived on Oct. 29, 1929, and the stock market crashed, the politics of the country would be turned upside down. The long economic growth period since World War I for the United States ended and the entire globe was thrown into the Great Depression.