New Deal coalition

"The New Deal coalition [. . .] united the many enemies of the old Puritan ethic: Catholic immigrants, Jewish intellectuals, southern gentlemen, black sharecroppers, Appalachian mountain folk, Texas stockmen and California hedonists."

Excerpt from Albion's Seed:

Old Folkways and the New Immigration

Even as the old sectional politics reached their apogee in the 1920s, a major transformation was taking place in the ethnocultural character of American society. As late as 1900 nearly 60 percent of Americans had been of British stock. The old English-speaking cultures still firmly maintained their hegemony in the United States. But that pattern was changing very rapidly. By 1920 the proportion of Americans with British ancestry had fallen to 41 percent. Still, three-quarters of the nation came from northwestern Europe, but other ethnic stocks from eastern and southern Europe were growing at a formidable rate.

As always when threatened from abroad, the four Anglo-Saxon cultures joined together in the 1920s to restrict the flow of the new immigration. Every region voted as one on this question—so much so that the immigration restriction bill of 1921 passed the Senate by a margin of 78 to 1. The House of Representatives approved it in a few hours without even bothering to take a roll call.17

By these measures, Congress succeeded in reducing the numbers of new immigrants during the twenties. But the ethnic composition of the United States continued to change very rapidly by natural increase. By 1980, the proportion of the American population who reported having any British ancestors at all had fallen below 20 percent. Nearly 80 percent were descended from other ethnic stocks. The largest ethnic stock in the United States was no longer British but German. Many other minorities were growing at a great rate.18

In the northeast, the new and old ethnic groups found themselves increasingly in conflict on cultural questions. In a New York referendum on pari-mutuel betting in 1939, for example, communities settled by Yankees before 1855 united in their opposition. The new immigrants were equally solid in support. The lines of conflict between the older communities and the new immigrants were sharply drawn on these issues.19

[19 On pari-mutuel betting in 1939, John L. Hammond found zero-order r values of negative .523 for communities founded by Yankees before 1855; for immigrant populations the correlation was a positive .700 on the other side. He reported similar patterns in voting on state lotteries in 1966; The Politics of Benevolence, 169.]

The New Deal Coalition: Ethnic and Regional Cultures

The new immigrants were slow to move into positions of leadership in the United States. A complex system of discrimination by licensing, quotas and covenants kept their numbers small in prestigious professions, the strongest schools and the best neighborhoods. But by 1932 their voting strength made a powerful difference in American politics and produced a major realignment of ethnic and regional groups which put Franklin Roosevelt in the White House.

During the Great Depression, the sufferings of southern farmers and northern workers created the basis for a new coalition which was destined to dominate national politics for nearly twenty years. This New Deal coalition united disparate cultural groups who shared little more than their common revulsion to the cultures, policies and moral purposes of the Republican coalition that had failed so dismally during the Great Depression. The political economy of laissez-faire and the Protestant ethic had been discredited by the Depression. The “noble experiment” of ordered freedom in national prohibition was regarded as a social disaster. This was a period when “puritanism” became a pejorative term in American speech. Descendants of the great migration were ridiculed as absurd and pathetic figures in Sinclair Lewis’s Main Street and Grant Wood’s American Gothic.

The old Republican coalition still remained strong, especially in the northern and midland rural regions which had been settled from New England and Pennsylvania. The states of Maine and Vermont voted Republican in every presidential election but one from 1856 to 1960.20 Republican candidates also ran strongly in the parts of the old northwest (Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin), in the many northern plains states (Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and the Dakotas), and in the Pacific northwest state of Oregon. In the depths of the Depression, the old Republican coalition still remained the strongest single culture in American politics. But the growing pluralism of American society now made it impossible for that cultural bloc to dominate national politics as it had done from 1860 to 1932.

The New Deal coalition was a response to this development. It united the many enemies of the old Puritan ethic: Catholic immigrants, Jewish intellectuals, southern gentlemen, black sharecroppers, Appalachian mountain folk, Texas stockmen and California hedonists. All joined in one movement improbably led by a patrician Democrat of New England stock from New York.

The various groups who supported Roosevelt all believed that the national government should play a larger economic role. But they did not share the same moral values and cultural purposes. The policies of New Deal reflected this diversity of cultural origins. It was an American middle way, “slightly left of center” in Franklin Roosevelt’s favorite phrase—a series of pragmatic experiments designed to preserve the capitalist and democratic fabric of American society by increasing public intervention in the material life of the nation. At the same time, the New Deal also opposed public legislation on questions of private morality. It abolished national prohibition, and rejected the moral activism of the Republican coalition.

Here was the central paradox of the New Deal—material intervention and moral non-intervention. It increased the economic role of government, but diminished its role as the instrument of any single system of ethnic or regional culture. The south received strong material support, but was not required to change its folkways. The ethnic cultures of new immigrants in northern cities were given economic aid in many forms, but legislative challenges to their culture were abandoned. The cultural hegemony of the Republican coalition was finally destroyed.


Anonymous said...


From The Fatal Embrace: Jews and the State by Benjamin Ginsberg:

Jews and Progressivism

"The political system that had emerged in the United States at the turn of the century was one that deprived Jews of access to economic and political power and to social standing. Not surprisingly, Jews were attracted to political movements that opposed that regime. Working-class Jews espoused socialism. Many middle- and upper-class Jews, on the other hand, supported Progressivism. The Progressives were a heterogeneous group of politicians that included diverse individuals as Robert LaFollette of Wisconsin, Hiram Johnson of California, Albert Cummins of Iowa, William U'Ren of Oregon, Woodrow Wilson of New Jersey, and Theodore Roosevelt of New York, tied together by a network of organizations such as the National Municipal League and publications such as the National Municipal Review.

As Martin Shefter has noted, Progressives were united less by ideology than by a common place in the political system. In the wake of the election of 1896, the great majority of states and the national government, as well, came to be governed by one-party systems. The Progressive movement linked politicians who found their careers blocked by the leadership of the dominant party, with groups and forces that did not enjoy the favor of or access to the locally dominant party - shippers in states where that party was tied to a railroad, firms that sold in national markets in cities where the party machine was tied to businesses that sold in local markets, and so forth."


"Because it not only attacked a regime that excluded them but also advocated the principles of merit, rule by experts, and careers open to talent, and sought the creation of a powerful state that could enforce these norms, Jews supported the Progressive movement."

Anonymous said...

From The Fatal Embrace: Jews and the State by Benjamin Ginsberg:

Patrician Anti-Semitism

"For the New England brahmins, the Jew served as a symbol of the greed and corruption of the new order. By assailing Jews, they attacked the industrialists, financiers, and railroad barons who were displacing them in the nation's political and economic life. This fear was expressed in a stream of anti-Semitic writings and speeches on the part of New England's leading public figures and intellectuals during the late nineteenth century."


"These themes were echoed by other New England patricians, including Henry James who used Jewish characters to symbolize greed and the decline of society. Similarly, Henry Adams's brother, Brooks, in his 1896 work, The Law of Civilization and Decay, demonstrated that throughout history Jews had used their money and financial acumen as instruments of exploitation, domination, and oppression. In the United States and Britain, productive industrial capitalism had been replaced by parasitic finance capitalism, symbolized by the Jewish usurer. This became a common theme in the literary and scholarly works of the New England patricians and other upper-class intellectuals. The Jew was attacked as the representative of a materialistic society with no values or culture."

Immigration Restriction

"From the patrician perspective, not only was the Jew was a symbol of the corruption of America's new ruling class, but the Jew symbolized the decay of American values in another was as well. To the patricians, Jewish immigrants, along with other newcomers from Southern and Eastern Europe, represented a threat to American culture, society, and the Anglo-Saxon race."


"One major vehicle for this aspect of the patrician attack on the industrialist regime was the Immigration Restriction League. The League was founded in 1894 by a trio of New England bluebloods - Charles Warren, Robert Ward, and Prescott Farnsworth Hall - and a group of their Harvard classmates. The League quickly promoted the creation of affiliates throughout the nation, often making use of the Harvard alumni network and other organizations of transplanted New Englanders."


"Among the League's most important intellectual spokesman was Edward Ross, one of the pioneers of American sociology. In his widely read 1914 work, The Old World and the New, Ross explains the importance of protecting Anglo-Saxon Americanism against pollution through immigration."


Anonymous said...

Populist-Patrician Alliance?

"The initial support for immigration restriction was provided mainly by the political spokesman of the Northeastern upper classes. However, the vague outlines of an alliance began to develop around the issue of immigration--and on opposition to the industrialist order more generally--between the Brahmins and the political representatives of the South and rural West."


"For a brief moment at the turn of the century, what might have seemed to be an improbable alliance between agrarian radicals and patricians, an American coalition of the top and bottom, was a possibility. The two groups were divided by an enormous cultural chasm, but, nevertheless, shared a common hatred for the new capitalist order and the forces that it was bringing to power. "

n/a said...

Thanks. More:

The Politics of Resistance: The Rural-Based Yankee Republican Machines of Connecticut and Rhode Island
John D. Buenker
The New England Quarterly
Vol. 47, No. 2 (Jun., 1974), pp. 212-237
From the Gilded Age to the New Deal, Conneticut and Rhode Island were held in the iron grip of formidable Republican political machines. Both organizations were allances between "the good old American stock out in the country" and the states' business interests agasinst the urban, new stock masses. Each "existed largely as a defense against the newcomers and doubtless would not have existed had there been no immigrants." Businessmen feared that the latter's demands for unionization, welfare, business regulation, and tax reform might jeopardize their comfortable economic positions. Small-town Yankees, as employers and taxpayers, shared these apprehensions and as pietistic Protestants were even more fearful of the alien culture of the immigrants as an "invasion of the Puritan heritage" that "would tend to cripple the morals of the state." Just as the immigrant working class often traded its poltical independence to political bosses for welfare or recognition, "their rural native cousins were sometimes prompted to do the same, in part out of a desire for cultural-religions as well as political, and perhaps at times, economic self-protection."

n/a said...

Boston Irish come of age and vote for the Black guy

Wed, Nov 15, 2006

[. . .] About a third of Massachusetts residents claim Irish heritage, the biggest percentage of any state, and they vote disproportionately more than other ethnic groups. Some analysts say Irish-Americans formed the biggest ethnic bloc of Patrick's vote.

Patrick's election proved that the idea that the Irish vote as a bloc for their own is a nonsense. In Boston and throughout Massachusetts, the Irish no longer dominate or aspire to political office, primarily because they don't need to. They run the banks, the law firms, the media outlets and other businesses they were effectively barred from controlling for much of the 20th century.

Even as the stereotype of an Irish pol making deals and settling scores in smoky back-rooms fades from the American consciousness, the Irish influence on politics in this most Irish slice of America persists and is deeply rooted.

Eight of Boston's 13 city councillors are Irish-American, but it goes beyond numbers.

Twenty years ago, not long after Bruce Bolling became the first African-American president of Boston city council, he used his new power to punish a political rival, maintaining a tradition that stretched back a century, when Irish ward bosses used their clout to reward friends and punish anyone who challenged the machine. When I half jokingly chided him about it, saying he had acted like an Irish pol, Bolling smiled. "In this town," he said, "we're all Irish by osmosis."

Last week, in the most Irish corner of the US, the Irish voted for the black guy, not one of their own. To paraphrase Bruce Bolling, and with a nod to Jimmy Rabbitte from The Commitments, we're all black by osmosis.

Kevin Cullen is a reporter for the Boston Globe

The Irish Times

DJ said...

“From 1926 to 1930, the House and Senate Immigration Committees held hearings on closing the back door. The usual Grantians (Richards M Bradley, Roy L. Garis, Francis H. Kinnicutt, Demarest Lloyd, James H. Patten, and John B. Trevor) testified, and Harry H. Laughlin submitted another one of his special reports, showing that ”Mexican immigrants are making a reconquest of the Southwest/*99

Naturally, many of the same groups that testified in 1924 against European restriction
also showed up to oppose Mexican restriction, including, as the Immigration Restriction League put it, “racial zealots … of Hebrew origin” whose “racial interests and prejudices warp their judgment as to the general interest.” But unlike in 1924, the Jews were joined this time by a well-organized and well-funded coalition of sugar beet manufacturers, livestock representatives, produce farmers, railroad executives, and mining interests, who put up a formidable fight in Congress. Few of them denied that the Mexicans were racially inferior, but they all testified that further restrictions would result in economic disaster for the Southwest. And besides, they wanted Congress to understand that the Mexicans were “timid” workers who always “knew their place” and were willing to work “all day or night and the next day without ever making a kick.” Certainly the “wetbacks” were less dangerous to society than the Negroes. The head of the American Cattle Raiser’s Association, for instance, told the Senate that he always let his three daughters ride the range with Mexicans, and the girls were “just as safe as if they had been with me…. Do you suppose we would send them out with a bunch of negroes? We would never think of such a thing.” 100

Patrician Racist: The Evolution of Madison Grant

Jonathan Peter Spiro