Just as Biden is known for the occasional malapropism, Harding was mocked for the supposedly ungrammatical construction of his slogan. But the word “normalcy” conveyed what many voters were looking for after the exhaustion of World War I, the Spanish flu pandemic, and the abrasive political style of President Woodrow Wilson.
A newspaper publisher from Ohio who went on to serve in the U.S. Senate — another parallel with Biden — Harding won at the Republican convention on the 10th ballot after none of the leading candidates could put together a majority. In his best-known campaign speech, he promised restoration, not revolution.
“America’s present need is not heroics, but healing; not nostrums, but normalcy; not revolution, but restoration; not agitation, but adjustment; not surgery, but serenity; not the dramatic, but the dispassionate,” he said.
That promise marked a contrast with Wilson, who was the real target of Harding’s rhetoric even though he wasn’t running for re-election in 1920.