October 08, 1992|By Theo Lippman Jr.

This is the 52nd presidential election.

In the 34th, held in 1920, America signaled that it was entering a new era. It was turning its back on the progressivism and internationalism that Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson had propounded for most of the century. Republicans rejected several TR heirs in favor of the little known Ohio Sen. Warren G. Harding (chosen by bosses in a ''smoke-filled room'' of the Blackstone Hotel in Chicago). Democrats also chose a lesser-known nominee, Ohio Gov. James M. Cox. Cox supported Wilson's League of Nations; Harding didn't. Harding supported Prohibition; Cox didn't.

The Republican promised ''normalcy,'' by which he meant no more Wilsonian crusades at home or abroad. Women voted for the first time, boosting the turnout by more than 50 percent over 1916. Harding won by a record 7 million votes. His margin of more than 26 percentage points remains a record today. The Roaring Twenties began with the roar of the first of three Republican landslides.

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