Why Coolidge Matters: an Interview with Charles C. Johnson
Charles C. Johnson is the author of Why Coolidge Matters: Leadership Lessons from America’s Most Underrated President. Coolidge presided over the roaring 1920s, which saw massive technological and economic expansion. He provided a model of the presidency squarely at odds with the current occupant of the White House. Charles sat down with PJ Media to discuss his book.
Calvin Coolidge is one of our most underrated presidents and among our very best, both by what he achieved and by what he knew about the American republic. He was our last classically educated president and one of our most well spoken. And far from being Silent Cal, as so many think today, he was, in fact, silenced by New Deal historians like Arthur Schlesinger Jr., who disliked both his political philosophy and its attendant success. The thinking went that if Roosevelt was to be the hero of the Great Depression, Coolidge, who had presided over the roaring 1920s, must have been its villain. Of course it’s a lot more complicated than that, but that’s what we’re so often told in our public schools. Rather than rebut Coolidge, these historians tried to caricaturize him in much the same way they tried to with Reagan. It was only after the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union collapsed that Reagan got his just place in history.
Far from being silent, Coolidge ran for office nineteen times and won election to eighteen offices, working his way all the up from city councilman of Northampton through the presidency of the Massachusetts state Senate and governorship, all the way to president of the United States. He was a career statesman who was always aware of the issues facing the local population because he worked and lived alongside them and admired them.
He wrote three interesting collections of speeches, gave over 500 press conferences, wrote a thoughtful autobiography, and wrote a very interesting post-presidential column.
I set out to write the sort of book about Calvin Coolidge that I wish I had read and to report faithfully what he did. As an investigative journalist, I love puncturing myths that are out there about the world, especially political history. To paraphrase Reagan, there’s so much we know that isn’t so and that’s principally because of how the political left controls our understanding of history.