For many ordinary Americans, politics has become an unpalatable pastime, too distasteful to digest or follow. It seems incredible that in a country of 330 million, the foremost political leaders are Joe Biden and Donald Trump, two men of low character and of lower, if any, principles.
That may explain why Troy Senik’s biography of Grover Cleveland, A Man of Iron, arrives as such an unalloyed joy. Turning from cable news to Senik’s work is like emerging from a fetid swamp to find oneself alongside a pristine brook.
Many see in Cleveland our first and perhaps only outright libertarian president. He was a firm exponent of laissez faire economics, federalism, the gold standard, and anti-imperialism. Granted, to describe him as a libertarian runs the risk of over-simplification. His politics were more nuanced than that. For example, years before Teddy Roosevelt made conservation popular, Cleveland was setting aside forest land in Wyoming’s Grand Tetons, Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, and South Dakota’s Black Hills.
Still, the libertarian label is more accurate than not.