John Karol makes the case for the "political minimalist" and "moral force" that is Calvin Coolidge, and a movie about him. He is a liberal, but says he was smitten when he read Coolidge’s autobiography, and then went to his speeches. I’m re-reading the autobiography now and am struck, again, at his crisp, clear, and lovely prose. It should be required reading for those of us who are inclined to be convoluted in our writing. Read some of his speeches here.
Unfortunately, Coolidge's time is quite remote from our own -- almost unimaginably distant, from the standpoint of the masses. FDR ushered in a new regime and a new political culture, both of which still rule America today. I intend to learn more about Coolidge, starting with Tom Silver's book. But "political minimalism" today is not only inadequate, but actually a political sin, given what we're up against. Certainly no president or presidential candidate can be effective if he's a minimalist. Coolidge is a moral and perhaps an intellectual model, but not a political model.
It will be interesting to see whether this film focuses on things that liberals might like in Coolidge, or whether it gives equal or greater weight to his belief in minimal government (and not just opposition to jailing pacifists and leftists years after the Great War ended).
David: I just finished Coolidge's autobiography and I must disagree with the you on the ineffectiveness of Coolidge. Whether or not he ought to be termed a "minimalist" and what the heck that even means I will set aside for now.
Regardless, Coolidge found a way to get things done, working well with Congress and remarkably well with both parties. He was not inactive, but he was always careful to act only when calm reason dictated (not the passions of the electorate). For example, just because one bridge collapsed, he would not have revamped the whole transportation system in a month. Coolidge was an extremely prudent leader, something that is always in demand, even today.