EDITORIAL: Rush for holiday is far too premature

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 6, 2021

Recently, two Ohio lawmakers have made national headlines for wanting to create a new state holiday.

Republican state Reps. Jon Cross and Reggie Stoltzfus have introduced a bill to declare July 14 as “President Donald J. Trump Day” in Ohio.

The two seek to enshrine the last president’s birthday because they say it is “imperative we set aside a day to celebrate one of the greatest presidents in American history.”

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Putting the polarized politics of today aside, this is a badly-conceived proposal for one simple reason: Trump has only been out of office for two weeks.

Whatever one’s thoughts are on the last administration (and Americans have plenty of opinions there), declaring a holiday for any president at this point would be ridiculously premature.

The full impact and legacy of any president, liberal or conservative, cannot truly be judged without the perspective of history and the passage of time.

Consider the example of two whose stature now is vastly changed from when they held office.

President Warren Harding was considered one of the country’s most wildly popular presidents ever when he died in office in 1923, two years into his term.

The country went into mass mourning at his passing, but, as details of scandals such as the Teapot Dome and other corruption in his administration came to light after his passing, his place in the public’s mind sank quickly.

His reputation fell so much, the dedication ceremony on his tomb was held off until four years after its completion, with political leaders seeking to distance themselves from the still fresh controversies.

Today, he is usually ranked among the worst five presidents by historians.

On the flip side is the case of Harry Truman, whose polling in 1952 was so bad, he opted not to run for a third term in office. (The two-term limit was passed the year before, but, due to a grandfather clause, it did not apply to the current president).

Truman’s second term polling numbers were some of the lowest in history, with even Richard Nixon at his time of resignation not reaching their low, and advisors talked him out of a third campaign.

However, in following decades, his reputation would soar, and, by the time of his death in 1972, the public considered his leadership in the early Cold War to be prescient and strong and began to view him as something of a folk hero. He is now almost always ranked in the top 10 presidents of U.S. history.

A state holiday should be for someone for whom there is a broad consensus on their legacy and should not be created in a partisan heat of the moment.

Any president of recent years, whether Trump, Barack Obama, George W. Bush or Bill Clinton, will not see their true place in history accurately defined for some time.

Cross and Stoltzfus should see if their effusive praise of their choice is still their view 30 or so years from now and, if so, get back to everyone about this matter then.

Until that time, this proposal for a state holiday should not even be a serious consideration from legislators and they should focus on more pressing matters.