VOICES: We have been through political upheavals before and come out just fine

The President was, by all accounts, unbecoming of the office.

He was a womanizer who betrayed his wife with a slew of mistresses. Those who knew of his dalliances kept them quiet, and when they became public knowledge, the reaction tended to be muted. One of his mistresses received a hush money payment; another said the President fathered her daughter.

He loved the gravitas of the office more than the office itself. He preferred to be seen among America’s power brokers and upper class. He liked to think of himself as a deep thinker, but he wasn’t. Strip away the veneer, and he was rather droll and uninspiring.

He loved to surround himself with acolytes who would indulge him, but that didn’t serve him or the country. When he took office, he was woefully unprepared, with little knowledge of foreign affairs and the inner workings of government. Worse, he didn’t care to study the details, instead preferring to focus on his extracurricular activities.

He also oversaw a crooked administration in which one of his closest advisors ended up in jail. He was beset by controversies, including one of the biggest scandals in American political history.

His reputation became so tarnished that his successor wanted nothing to do with him.

No, this isn’t Donald Trump.

It’s Ohio-born Warren G. Harding, who historians often rank as the worst country’s worst-ever President.

Harding was born in 1865. He purchased and built the Marion Star, which still publishes today. He was elected an Ohio State Senator in 1899 and over time, became lieutenant governor of Ohio and a member of the U.S. Senate. In 1920 he won the Presidency, beating Ohio Gov. James M. Cox, another newspaper magnet who founded the Dayton Daily News in 1898.

A third candidate, Socialist Party standard bearer Eugene V. Debbs, ran from prison. He was convicted of violating the Sedition Act of 1918 for opposing World War 1. Some 1 million people (3%) voted for him.

From the start, Harding was ill-equipped. He let others run the government, an annoyance he didn’t have much interest in, not with poker, women, and drinking calling. Harding was in charge during the Teapot Dome bribery scheme involving the secret leasing of federal oil reserves. Albert Fall, the secretary of the interior, was convicted of bribery and was the first presidential cabinet member to go to prison, serving nine months of a 1-year term.

Worn down by the various scandals, Harding told an aide, ”I am not fit for this office and should never have been here.”

Harding died in office of a heart attack on August 2, 1923. (Nine presidents have passed away while serving).

For the last week-plus, Americans have been hyperbolic about the Trump guilty verdict, with a constant refrain that something like this has never happened before.

If you mean an ex-president being convicted of 34 felony counts and facing jail time, yeah, that’s a first. But the point here is that we have been through seismic political upheavals before and come out the other side just fine.

The election of 1800 almost destroyed a fledgling democracy but instead ushered in the norm of a peaceful transfer of power. John Quincy Adams was elected in 1824 because of a backroom deal that infuriated the nation. Nixon and Watergate, the Monica Lewinsky scandal, and Iran-Contra are just a few more of the despicable actions of our elected leaders.

If you’re shocked by the prospect of Trump as President, don’t be.

Just look at history and a government filled with unsavory characters.

We forgave them anyway.

Ray Marcano’s column appears on these pages each Sunday.

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