Return to normalcy

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Harding called for "A Return to Normalcy".

"Return to normalcy" was United States presidential candidate Warren G. Harding's campaign slogan for the election of 1920. It evoked a return to the way of life before World War I, the First Red Scare, and the Spanish flu pandemic.

1920 election[edit]

Harding's position attracted support and was important during the 1920 United States presidential election, which he won with 60.3% of the popular vote.[1]

Harding's promise was to restore the United States' pre-war mentality, without the thought of war tainting the minds of the American people:

"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; not experiment, but equipoise; not submergence in internationality, but sustainment in triumphant nationality." [2]

Although detractors of the time tried to belittle the word "normalcy" as a neologism as well as a malapropism, saying that it was poorly coined by Harding (as opposed to the more accepted term normality), there was contemporaneous discussion and evidence that normalcy had been listed in dictionaries as far back as 1857.[3] During the campaign Harding, a newspaper editor, addressed the issue of the word's origin, claiming that normalcy but not normality appeared in his dictionary:

I have noticed that word caused considerable news editors to change it to "normality". I have looked for "normality" in my dictionary and I do not find it there. "Normalcy", however, I did find, and it is a good word.[4]

2020 election[edit]

The phrase "return to normalcy" also became associated with the 2020 presidential campaign of Joe Biden, specifically referring to Biden's promises to end the "divisiveness of the Trump years," as well as his campaign's focus on tackling the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.[5]

Many progressive commentators criticized this slogan, saying that "normalcy" in Biden's terms meant pre-2016, which they claim led to the rise of Trump.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Election of 1920: Republican and the Return to Normalcy".
  2. ^ "Return to Normalcy". Archived from the original on 2006-10-03.
  3. ^ "The Mavens' Word of the Day: normalcy", June 25, 1999,
  4. ^ Kory Stamper (29 October 2013). "Obama didn't use improper grammar. Cut him and other public figures a break". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 23 February 2014.
  5. ^ Klein, Ezra (2019-05-20). "Joe Biden's promise: a return to normalcy". Vox. Archived from the original on January 16, 2021. Retrieved 2020-09-15.

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