New Deal coalition
The New Deal coalition was the alignment of interest groups and voting blocs that supported the New Deal and voted for Democratic presidential candidates from 1932 until approximately 1968, which made the Democratic Party the majority party during that period, although they had only one Presidential majority after 1944. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his campaign manager Postmaster General James A. Farley created a coalition that included the Democratic party, big city machines, labor unions, minorities (racial, ethnic and religious,) liberal farm groups, intellectuals, and the South. The coalition fell apart after 1968, but it remains the model that party activists seek to replicate. Political scientists often call it the “Fifth Party System” in contrast to the Fourth Party System of the 1896-1932 era that it replaced.
- 1 Realignment
- 2 Cities
- 3 End of New Deal coalition
- 4 New Deal Coalition: voting %D 1948-1964
- 5 References
- 6 See also
Under the direction of James A. Farley the 1932 election brought about a major realignment in political party affiliation, and is widely considered to be a realigning election, though some scholars point to the off-year election of 1934. Franklin Delano Roosevelt set up his New Deal and under Farley's stewardship was able to forge a coalition of Big City machines, labor unions, liberals, ethnic and racial minorities (especially Catholics, Jews and African Americans,) and Southern whites. These disparate voting blocs together formed a large majority of voters and handed the Democratic Party seven victories out of nine presidential elections (1932-48, 1960, 1964), as well as control of both houses of Congress during all but 4 years between the years 1932-1980 (Republicans won in 1946 and 1952). Starting in the 1930s, the term “liberal” was used in U.S. politics to indicate supporters of the coalition, while "conservative" denoted its opponents. The coalition was never formally organized, and the constituent members often disagreed.
Roosevelt had a magnetic appeal to city dwellers, especially the poorer minorities who got recognition, unions, and relief jobs thanks to the President and Postmaster General Farley, who controlled the administrations Patronage. Taxpayers, small business and the middle class voted for Roosevelt in 1936, but turned sharply against him after the recession of 1937-38 seemed to belie his promises of recovery. 
Roosevelt discovered an entirely new use for city machines in his reelection campaigns. Traditionally, local bosses minimized turnout so as to guarantee reliable control of their wards and legislative districts. To carry the electoral college, however, Roosevelt needed massive majorities in the largest cities to overcome the hostility of suburbs and towns. With Postmaster General James A. Farley as his "Generalissimo" , Roosevelt used the Works Progress Administration (1935-1942) as a national political machine through Farley's control of patronage. Men on relief could get WPA jobs regardless of their politics, but hundreds of thousands of supervisory jobs were given to local Democratic machines via Farley. The 3.5 million voters on relief payrolls during the 1936 election cast 82% percent of their ballots for Roosevelt. The vibrant labor unions, heavily based in the cities, likewise did their utmost for their benefactor, voting 80% for him, as did Irish, Italian and Jewish voters. In all, the nation's 106 cities over 100,000 population voted 70% for FDR in 1936, compared to 59% elsewhere. Roosevelt won reelection in 1940 thanks to the cities. In the North, the cities over 100,000 gave Roosevelt 60% of their votes, while the rest of the North favored Willkie by 52%. It was just enough to provide the critical electoral college margin. 
With the start of full-scale war mobilization in the summer of 1940, the cities revived. The war economy pumped massive investments into new factories and funded round-the-clock munitions production, guaranteeing a job to anyone who showed up at the factory gate.
End of New Deal coalition
The coalition fell apart in many ways but started with Farley and Roosevelts break over the third term nominee in 1940. The first cause was lack of a leader of the stature of Roosevelt. The closest was perhaps Lyndon Johnson, who deliberately tried to reinvigorate the old coalition, but in fact drove its constituents apart. New issues such as civil rights, the Vietnam War, abortion, gay rights, affirmative action, and urban riots tended to split the coalition and drive many members away. Meanwhile, the Republican party made major gains by promising lower taxes and control of crime.
The big-city machines faded away in the 1940s, with a few exceptions, such as Chicago and Albany. The New Deal had made them heavily dependent on the WPA for patronage, and, when Congress shut down the WPA, the cities could not find a substitute. Furthermore, World War II brought such a surge of prosperity that the relief mechanism of the WPA, CCC, etc. was no longer useful as a political tool.
Labor unions crested in size and power in the 1950s, then went into steady decline. They continue into the 21st century as major backers of the Democrats, but with so few members they have lost much of their influence.
The European ethnic groups came of age after the 1960s. Ronald Reagan pulled many of the working class social conservatives into the Republican party as Reagan Democrats. Many middle class ethnics saw the Democratic party as a working class party and preferred the GOP as the upper-middle class party. However, the Jewish community still voted en masse for the Democratic party, and with the recent election 74% voted for Kerry.
African Americans grew stronger in their Democratic loyalties and in their numbers. By the 1960s, they were a much more important part of the coalition than in the 1930s. Their Democratic loyalties cut across all income and geographic lines to form the single most unified bloc of voters in the country.
Region: Realignment in South
White Southerners abandoned cotton and tobacco farming, and moved to the cities where the New Deal programs had much less impact. Beginning in the 1950s, the southern cities and suburbs started voting Republican. The white South saw the support northern Democrats gave to the Civil Rights Movement as a direct political assault on their interests and opened the way to protest votes for Barry Goldwater, who in 1964 was the first Republican to carry the deep south. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton lured many of the Southern whites back at the level of Presidential voting, but by 2000 white males in the South were 2-1 Republican and, indeed, formed a major part of the Republican coalition.
In many ways, it was the civil rights movement that ultimately heralded the demise of the coalition. Democrats had traditionally solid support in Southern states (the Solid South), but this electoral dominance began eroding in 1964, when Barry Goldwater carried the Deep South (and little else). In the 1968 election, the South once again abandoned its traditional support for the Democrats by supporting Nixon and segregationist third-party candidate George C. Wallace. This, coupled with Nixon's southern strategy aimed at attracting these voters, led to increased support for Republicans by Southern whites.
Since 1968, the South has generally voted for Republicans in presidential elections. Exceptions came in the elections of 1976, when the southern states voted for native southerner Jimmy Carter, and 1992 and 1996, when the Democratic ticket of southerners Bill Clinton and Al Gore achieved a split of the region's electoral votes. 
In more recent years, support for the Democrats has become the strongest in the northeast and on the west coast, with Republicans showing more strength in the south and southwest. The Midwest has become a partisan political battleground. The division between the two parties is virtually even in both houses of Congress, as of 2006, and no party has established the kind of dominance that the Democrats were able to exert during the period of the New Deal coalition.
New Deal Coalition: voting %D 1948-1964% Democratic vote in major groups, presidency 1948-1964 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 all voters 50 45 42 50 61 White 50 43 41 49 59 Black 50 79 61 68 94 College 22 34 31 39 52 High School 51 45 42 52 62 Grade School 64 52 50 55 66 Professional & Business 19 36 32 42 54 White Collar 47 40 37 48 57 Manual worker 66 55 50 60 71 Farmer 60 33 46 48 53 Union member 76 51 62 77 Not union 42 35 44 56 Protestant 43 37 37 38 55 Catholic 62 56 51 78 76 Republican 8 4 5 20 Independent 35 30 43 56 Democrat 77 85 84 87 East 48 45 40 53 68 Midwest 50 42 41 48 61 West 49 42 43 49 60 South 53 51 49 51 52
Source: Gallup Polls in Gallup (1972)
- ^ See for example, Larry M. Bartels, “What’s Wrong with Short-Term Thinking?” Boston Review 29#3 online
- ^ Robert C. Benedict, Matthew J. Burbank and Ronald J. Hrebenar, Political Parties, Interest Groups and Political Campaigns. Westview Press. 1999. Page 11.
- ^ Jensen 1981
- ^ Jensen 1981
- ^ Steven P. Erie, Rainbow's End: Irish-Americans and the Dilemmas of Urban Machine Politics, 1840—1985 (1988).
- ^ Stanley Aronowitz, From the Ashes of the Old: American Labor and America's Future (1998) ch 7
- ^ Tevi Troy, Intellectuals and the American Presidency: Philosophers, Jesters, or Technicians? (2003)
- ^ by William B. Prendergast, The Catholic Voter in American Politics: The Passing of the Democratic Monolith, (1999).
- ^ Hanes Walton, African American Power and Politics: The Political Context Variable (1997)
- ^ Earl Black and Merle Black, Politics and Society in the South, 1987.
- ^ Thomas F. Schaller, Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South (2006)
- Allswang, John M. New Deal and American Politics (1978)
- Andersen, Kristi. The Creation of a Democratic Majority, 1928-1936 (1979)
- Burns, James MacGregor. Roosevelt: The Lion and the Fox (1956)
- Cantril, Hadley and Mildred Strunk, eds. Public Opinion, 1935-1946 (1951), massive compilation of many public opinion polls from US, UK, Canada, Australia, and elsewhere.
- Gallup, George. The Gallup Poll: Public opinion, 1935-1971 (3 vol 1972)
- James, Scott C. Presidents, Parties, and the State: A Party System Perspective on Democratic Regulatory Choice, 1884-1936 (2000)
- Jensen, Richard. "The Last Party System, 1932-1980," in Paul Kleppner, ed. Evolution of American Electoral Systems (1981)
- Ladd Jr., Everett Carll with Charles D. Hadley. Transformations of the American Party System: Political Coalitions from the New Deal to the 1970s 2nd ed. (1978).
- Leuchtenburg, William E. In the Shadow of FDR: From Harry Truman to George W. Bush (2001)
- Manza, Jeff and Clem Brooks; Social Cleavages and Political Change: Voter Alignments and U.S. Party Coalitions, Oxford University Press, 1999
- Milkis, Sidney M. and Jerome M. Mileur, eds. The New Deal and the Triumph of Liberalism (2002)
- Milkis, Sidney M. The President and the Parties: The Transformation of the American Party System Since the New Deal (1993)
- Patterson, James. Congressional Conservatism and the New Deal: The Growth of the Conservative Coalition in Congress, 1933-39 (1967)
- Robinson, Edgar Eugene. They Voted for Roosevelt: The Presidential Vote, 1932-1944 (1947) tables of votes by county
- Richard L. Rubin. Party Dynamics, the Democratic Coalition and the Politics of Change (1976)
- Sundquist, James L. Dynamics of the Party System: Alignment and Realignment of Political Parties in the United States (1983)
- Fifth party System
- Conservative coalition
- Solid South
- History of United States Democratic Party
- Southern strategy
- New Deal
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