At the debate, DeSantis names Calvin Coolidge as his favorite former president

Toward the end of Wednesday’s debate, moderators asked the four Republican candidates on stage which former president would be their inspiration if elected. The answers were what you would normally expect.

George Washington, the founding father of America. Thomas Jefferson, who wrote its founding document. Abraham Lincoln, who saved a divided nation. Ronald Reagan, a modern conservative icon.

And… Calvin Coolidge, who… uh…

“One of the guys I’m going to draw inspiration from is Calvin Coolidge,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, who studied history at Yale and once taught the subject at a private school. “He’s one of the few presidents who has gotten almost everything right.”

His statement drew considerable applause.

Coolidge, a Republican from New England, was the 30th President of the United States, serving from 1923 to 1929. He took over after Warren G. Harding died in office. Coolidge then won his term.

Coolidge became a somewhat unexpected favorite among modern conservatives. He cut taxes and supported small government and deregulation. His presidency, which coincided with the Roaring Twenties, is often credited with the period’s economic boom. (Coolidge admirers usually blame his successor, Herbert Hoover, for the ensuing crash.) Reagan was an early member of the modern Coolidge cult.

Coolidge was once derided as stern and cold. When told he had died, Dorothy Parker reportedly quipped, “How could they tell?” In 1926, Walter Lippmann noted that Coolidge had a talent for “active inactivity” that suited business interests and “all those who have become convinced that government in this country has become dangerously complicated and superior.”

Historians have since tried to repair his image, with apparent success.

After the debate, Mr. DeSantis noted his affection for the man of few words.

“Silent Cal knew the true role of the federal government,” he wrote in a post on the X social network.

But Coolidge’s record has been the subject of some debate. David Greenberg, historian, wrote essay for the Miller Center at the University of Virginia that Coolidge’s foreign policy did little to curb the rise of the Nazis in Germany. He added that many Americans associated Coolidge’s economic policies with the Great Depression, which followed his presidency.

“Scholarly opinion views President Coolidge with skepticism, ranking him relatively low among American chief executives in terms of the positive impact and legacy of his administration,” wrote Dr. Greenberg.

Many Americans are probably more familiar with another famous Coolidge. Jennifer Coolidge, star of HBO’s “White Lotus,” said she is a distant relative of the former president.

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