The funny thing about President Warren G. Harding’s “return to normalcy” is that it is a straight-up promise to go back to how things were in the good old days. It’s something candidates today dance around, but never actually say outright. Candidates normally like to look forward (to moon bases in 2020, for example), but after World War I, all anybody wanted was to go back to how things were before the war, and Harding knew it.
So, instead of pledging great public projects or ambitious government programs, Harding promised a return to isolationism, steadiness, and nativism. “My best judgment of America’s needs is to steady down, to get squarely on our feet, to make sure of the right path,” Harding said. Basically it was, “Hey, you know what our problem is? Doing stuff. How about we do a little less for a while, eh?” And it worked. Harding won the election of 1920 and became president in 1921.