Coolidge was one of the most popular presidents in U.S. history, but historians have tended to underestimate his importance. However, with the advent of Reagan and the revival of conservatism, Coolidge's place in history has been re-appraised. Historian Paul Johnson has called Coolidge "[t]he most internally consistent and single minded of modern American presidents." Amity Shlaes has written recently that Coolidge believed his first obligation was "to do no harm. His no harm rule came out of strength of character. By holding back, Coolidge believed he sustained stability, so that citizens knew what to expect from their government." Perhaps one of Coolidge's own supporters best summarized his record: "Coolidge never wasted any time, never wasted any words, and never wasted any public money."
Before meeting his predecessor, Romney might well consider the following Coolidge administration accomplishments:
- Top marginal income tax rates were lowered from 73% to 24%.
- By the end of his term, 98% of the population paid no income tax at all.
- The federal budget was reduced by 35%.
- Per capita income increased over 30%.
- Unemployment averaged 3.3%.
- GNP grew at the fastest compound rate of any eight-year period in U.S. history.
There are some very important lessons that Mitt could learn from Silent Cal. First and foremost, Coolidge was a man of character who embodied the classic New England virtues upon which the Republic was founded: hard work, independent thinking ("common sense" as he called it), lack of pretense, sense of duty, perseverance, scrupulous honesty -- in other words, the bedrock on which Coolidge had been raised in rural Vermont and on which he built his political career. The 1920s made for a decade of rapid social change, but Coolidge's somewhat old-fashioned virtues resonated with the American public.
How could such a seemingly simple man as Coolidge, who adhered so closely to traditional virtues and conservative, Jeffersonian government, have captured the respect, admiration, and even affection of 20th-century America? After pondering the Coolidge phenomenon for eight years, Walter Lippmann finally concluded near the end of Coolidge's tenure, "Americans feel, I think, that they are stern, ascetic and devoted to plain living because they vote for a man who is."