Picture it: you and five of your friends want to go out to eat, but need to decide on where. Each person suggests a favorite local restaurant, but each idea is vetoed by another group member who does not want to go there.
A steakhouse? Too expensive.
Thai food? Doesn’t agree with someone
Bar-B-Que? No vegetarian options.
and so on…
In the end, you all end up at Applebee’s. This is not not because anyone was was craving Applebee’s; it’s because no one could find a problem with going to Applebee’s. Applebee’s is an inoffensive choice where everyone can have an adequate meal.
If you and your friends were to each vote for your favorite restaurant, Applebee’s would earn zero votes. But that night, it gets all of your business. You and your friends couldn’t all get what you wanted, so you compromised.
That’s kind of how Warren G. Harding ended up being president. Especially following World War I and Woodrow Wilson’s progressive administration, people wanted a leader that wasn’t going to make them uncomfortable, and Warren G. Harding was that guy.
Harding was a nice enough guy with experience in government, but no particular agenda. His career in government was unremarkable–during his time in the US Senate, he took no strong positions and adopted a casual policy towards attendance, missing many high-profile votes. He gave the impression that he could do his job adequately without pushing anyone the wrong way. He was uninspiring as Applebee’s while at the same time being as inoffensive Applebee’s.
The full story is of course more complicated, but Warren G. Harding can, in part, thank his political blandness for his rise to the top.