1921-1923 MC-Index

File:Warren G. Harding inauguration - convertible.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
On the way to inauguration in 1921, Woodrow Wilson and Warren G. Harding in back, Rep. Joe Cannon (R-Ill.) and Sen. Philander Knox (R-Penn.) in front. Harding has the most Republican Congress of the 20th century to work with, the 67th.

The next two years we’ll have a slightly Democratic House, an evenly divided Senate, and Democratic President Joe Biden. This is a little bit of the opposite of how things were one hundred years ago. Democrats were dominant in the South while Republicans were dominant everywhere else given the 1920 election produced a supermajority for House Republicans. Northeastern Republicans were the most conservative in this time, and New York is a remarkable contrast in its senators to today. This Congress would in fact be the last one in which New York had two conservative Republicans representing the state in the Senate: William M. Calder and James Wadsworth Jr., who score 95% and 100% respectively. Wadsworth would later be one of the most hardline opponents of FDR’s New Deal, while being his ally on foreign policy. It is also the last Congress in which Republicans would hold a majority of New York City Congressional districts: the Democrats had done that badly in 1920 thanks to Woodrow Wilson! Today the GOP holds only hold one of New York City’s districts, the Republican leaning Staten Island.

Viewing the issues of the time, it is interesting how some of the issues involve similar arguments that we have now. Republicans, now as then, are concerned with the United States’ ability to compete abroad and want to use the tax code to help this happen. Most notable in the 67th Congress is Republicans voting for tax exemptions for U.S. businesses that operate in China as well as votes for tax reductions. Additionally present is a vote on a bill to exempt the Great Lakes from the crew requirements of the La Follette Seaman’s Act. Unlike now, they backed tariffs as a means to protect businesses while Democrats firmly opposed. Congress’s resident socialist, Meyer London of New York, scores a 13% in this Congress. “Uncle Joe” Cannon, a friend and protege of Abraham Lincoln’s from Illinois, who had served with only two interruptions since 1873, has his final term in this Congress and scores a 95%. Democrats showed support for the notion of states’ rights but in a different manner than you might think today as they were insisting that state authority be deferred to rather than ICC rulings for a bill that permitted interstate telephone companies to sell and purchase property. In this case, states were used as a check on the growing power of corporations.

Some notable issues are not on this scorecard because they don’t translate terribly well to ideology in this time. These include Prohibition and the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill. For the former, there were conservative arguments for and against it, and for the latter civil rights didn’t figure on the liberal-conservative scale until after World War II…here its mostly the North vs. the South.

The first link is the legislative scorecard, and the second consists of descriptions of what was voted on. Democrats are in plain text, Republicans in italics. London of New York is a Socialist and Shreve of Pennsylvania is an Independent Republican.

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