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Election of 1936: A Democratic Landslide

Election of 1936: A Democratic Landslide


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The Republican Party met in Cleveland, Ohio, in June, 1936. Landon, who had been elected governor of Kansas in 1934, the only Republican gubernatorial to be successful in the entire nation that year.Franklin D. Roosevelt was again nominated by the Democrats. In a speech in Chicago, on October 14, 1936, Roosevelt stated:"On this trip through the nation, I have talked to farmers. I have driven home that point."Tonight, in this center of business, I give the same message to the businessmen of America -- to chose who make and sell the processed goods the nation uses and to the men and women who work for them."To them I say: Do you have a deposit in a bank? It is safer today than it has ever been in our history. Last October 1 marked the end of the first full year in fifty-five years without a single failure of a national bank in the United States."Opposition of a less orthodox type than the Republican Party developed as well. Coughlan founded the National Union for Social Progress in November 1934 in opposition to the twin evils of capitalism and communism, both of which Coughlan declared to be rotten.The National Union attracted Dr. Huey P. Long advocated for a general redistribution of wealth and gravitated to the Union along with other radical thinkers. From this disparate group came a plan to run Long for president in 1936, but he was inconveniently assassinated on September 8, 1935.In the summer of 1936, the NUSP became the Union Party and held a national convention. Senator William E. Borah of Idaho participated and had some support. After receiving a minor number of votes in November 1936, the party largely disbanded in 1938.The Socialist Party again nominated Norman Thomas, who struggled to keep the platform of the party identified with positions significantly to the left of the Democrats. He succeeded, but the voting public did not regard the Socialist position as pragmatic and Thomas received fewer popular votes in 1936 than he did in 1932.The people responded to Roosevelt`s message. Before that time, Maine had been considered a bellwether for the national results, and a popular saying had been, "As Maine goes, so goes the nation." In 1936, this was changed to, "As Maine goes, so goes Vermont."On Capitol Hill, the results were equally lopsided. House of Representatives, the voters sent just 88 Republicans compared with 334 Democrats.National opinion polls were relatively new in 1936, but George Gallop and Elmo Roper both forecast a substantial victory for Roosevelt. Farley predicted to Roosevelt that in the 1936 election his boss would win every state except Vermont and Maine, which proved correct.The Literary Digest came to a different conclusion. Roosevelt`s landslide victory helped to put the Digest out of business.

Election of 1936
Candidates

Party

Electoral
Vote

Popular
Vote

Franklin D. Roosevelt (N.Y.)
John N. Garner (Texas)

Democratic

523

27,476,673

Alfred M. Landon (Kansas.)
Frank Knox (Illinois)

Republican

8

16,679,583

William Lemke (North Dakota)
Thomas C. O`Brian (Mass.)

Union

0

892,793



POLITICO

President Franklin D. Roosevelt (seen here earlier in 1937) told the audience in Chicago: “Nations are fomenting and taking sides in civil warfare in nations that have never done them any harm. Nations claiming freedom for themselves deny it to others.” | AP Photo


Washington Redskins Predict Presidential Elections

Claim: The outcome of Washington Redskins home football games has correctly predicted the winner of every election since 1936.

Example: [Collected via e-mail, November 2012]

The Washington Redskins have proved to be a time-tested election predictor. In the previous if the Washington Redskins have lost their last home game prior to the election, the incumbent party has lost the White House. When they have won, the incumbent has stayed in power.

This election year, that deciding game takes place on Sunday, … vs.

Origins: Our desire to understand and assert some control over the world around us is often manifested by our attempts to find predictive signs that enable us to prognosticate when there is no seeming connection between predictor and event. Sometimes one natural phenomenon supposedly forecasts another, as in the belief that a

groundhog‘s seeing his shadow on portends another six weeks of winter. In other instances the linkage is between affairs of mankind, as in the superstition that the winner of football’s augurs that year’s stock market performance (or vice-versa).

One item of this ilk which gained currency in 2004 maintained that the results of the last game played at home by the NFL’s Redskins (a football team based in the national capital, Washington, D.C.) before a election foretold the winner of that contest. If the Redskins won their last home game before the election, the party that occupied the White House continued to hold it if the Redskins lost that last home game, the challenger from the out-of-office party unseated the incumbent party. And up until that 2004 election, the Redskins indicator had a rather remarkable record: Since 1936, the earliest

presidential election year in which the current Redskins franchise played under that team name, the team’s results had currently predicted the outcome of presidential contests.

Reality finally trumped coincidence in 2004, however: Despite the Green Bay Packers’ defeat of the Redskins at the latter’s home field on , presaging a victory for Democratic challenger John Kerry in upcoming the presidential election, two days later incumbent President Bush was breaking the Redskins’ predictive pattern. The Redskins indicator failed again in 2012 as Washington suffered a home loss at the hands of the Carolina Panthers on 2012, just two days before that year’s election, but Republican nominee Mitt Romney failed to unseat incumbent president Barack Obama.

While we don’t presume there is anything more behind the phenomenon than random correlation, the Redskins indicator can still boast an accuracy rate of 90% with matches out of the last :


    After stumbling in 2004, the Redskins’ power as election predictors got back on track in 2008. In a Monday night game contested on 2008, the evening before Election Day, the Redskins were defeated at home, by the Pittsburgh Steelers, a loss that foretold a change in party which would bring the Democratic candidate into the White House. The following day, the Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Barack Obama, defeated the Republican presidential candidate, Senator John McCain, for the White House.

That is as far back as the streak goes. In 1932 the Washington Redskins were neither the Redskins nor a Washington team: they were the Boston Braves, and they played in Braves Field, which they shared with the National League baseball team of the same name. On 1932 they won at home against the Staten Island Stapletons, a result that should have foretold a presidential victory for the incumbent Republican party. Neither the Redskins’ team name nor their predictive powers were yet evident, however, as President Herbert Hoover lost to his Democratic challenger, Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt of New York, on 1932.

Sightings: This Redskins home game election predictor was mentioned in an episode of the AMC television drama Mad Men (“The Wheel,” original air date 2007):


When did black Americans start voting so heavily Democratic?

That's the party identification split among black Americans as measured by Pew Research since 1992. Compare it with this chart, detailing the partisan identification of whites.

Again, we're used to this: A strongly Democratic black population and a back-and-forth-but-increasingly-Republican white one.

But when did black Americans become so heavily Democratic?

For that, we turn to data compiled by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. The Joint Center pulled data from independent research, Gallup polling, exit polls, professional polling firms and their own surveys to put together a look at the partisan makeup of black voters since the administration of Franklin Roosevelt. That the data start in 1936 and not, say, with the emancipation of slaves after the Civil War -- thanks largely to a Republican president -- is because the ability of black Americans to vote was regularly restricted and uneven.

In the decade before 1948, black Americans identified as Democrats about as often as they did Republicans. In 1948, as Real Clear Politics' Jay Cost wrote a few years ago, Democrat Harry Truman made an explicit appeal for new civil rights measures from Congress, including voter protections, a federal ban on lynching and bolstering existing civil rights laws. That year, the number of blacks identifying as Democrats increased.

The second big jump is the one that you likely thought of first: The Civil Rights Act of 1964. Its passage in July of that year was the culmination of a long political struggle that played out on Capitol Hill. When he signed the bill, President Lyndon Johnson reportedly said that Democrats would, as a result, lose the South for a generation. It's been longer than that.

It's important to note, though, that African Americans were already voting more heavily for Democrats than Republicans. At no point from 1936 on, according to Joint Center data, has the Republican candidate for president gotten more than 40 percent of the black vote.

Compared to the overall vote, the extent to which black voters have backed Democratic candidates has grown -- a little in 1948 and 1952, but a lot beginning in 1968.

It's worth adding another line to that graph: The Democratic vote in the heart of the South, including Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina. The average support for the Democratic candidate each year has slipped downward, but plummeted in 1948 and 1964. In the latter year, those states backed Barry Goldwater. In the former, they largely backed the States Rights party candidate, Strom Thurmond.

The gap in partisan support among black voters predates World War II. But the yawning chasm seen in the chart at the top of this post can be traced back to two seminal moments of civil rights advocacy.


Nov. 3, 1936 | Franklin Roosevelt Re-elected in Landslide

Elias Goldensky/Library of Congress President Franklin D. Roosevelt, shown here in a portrait from 1933, had the longest tenure of any U.S. president. He was elected to his second term on Nov. 3, 1936.
Historic Headlines

Learn about key events in history and their connections to today.

On Nov. 3, 1936, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was re-elected in a landslide over his Republican challenger, Kansas Governor Alfred M. 𠇊lf” Landon. The president won over 60 percent of the popular vote and 523 of the 531 electoral votes, losing only Maine and Vermont.

President Roosevelt had taken office in 1933, three and a half years after the stock market crash and the start of the Great Depression. Many Americans were struggling. The president outlined what was called a “New Deal” that would introduce work relief programs a series of economic and agricultural reforms designed to spur economic recovery. The New Deal provided immediate relief, but it was largely unsuccessful in stimulating the economy.

The majority of Americans supported the New Deal, though the president did face criticism both from business leaders and from populists who believed that his reforms did not go far enough in aiding the poor. When the 1936 election season began, the New Deal was its central issue.

Republicans considered a strategy The New York Times described as 𠇊 frontal assault on the New Deal with an outstanding Eastern candidate,” but instead �ided to swallow half of the New Deal in the platform and nominate a nationally unknown candidate who would provide a powerful personal contrast to the forceful personality of the President.”

Gov. Landon proved no match for President Roosevelt. Also, Democrats, who already held the majority of seats in both the House and Senate, gained even more in the election.

President Roosevelt’s second term achieved fewer successes than his first. Most notably, his plan to “pack” the Supreme Court with his supporters failed and Republican victories in the 1938 congressional elections made it more difficult to pass New Deal legislation. Still, the president won an unprecedented third term in another landslide.

Roosevelt’s third and fourth terms were marked by U.S. entry into World War II following the Pearl Harbor attack on Dec. 7, 1941, which he famously declared to be 𠇊 date which will live in infamy.” President Roosevelt is considered to have served ably as a war president despite suffering from a number of health ailments, including polio. He died on April 12, 1945 of a cerebral hemorrhage, and was succeed by Harry Truman.

Connect to Today:

Franklin Roosevelt is the only U.S. president to serve more than two terms. Established by the two-term presidencies of founding fathers George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe, it was simply tradition to decline running for a third term. In 1947, two years after the President Roosevelt’s death, Congress passed what would become the 22nd Amendment, which imposed an official two-term limit.

There has been little momentum for presidential term limits to be overturned, though President Ronald Reagan did speak out against term limits. However, there has been debate over term limits for other elected positions. In 2008, New York City overturned its two-term mayoral limit, thus allowing Michael Bloomberg to run for a third term, which he won.


Definition

There is no legal or constitutional definition of what a landslide election is, or how wide an electoral victory margin must be in order for a candidate to have won in a landslide. But many modern-day political commentators and media pundits use the term landslide election freely to describe campaigns in which the victor was a clear favorite during the campaign and goes on to win with relative ease.

"It usually means exceeding expectations and being somewhat overwhelming," Gerald Hill, a political scientist and co-author of "The Facts on File Dictionary of American Politics," told The Associated Press.

One way to measure a landslide victory is by percentage points. Historically, many outlets have used the phrase "landslide" for victories in which a candidate beats their opponents by at least 15 percentage points in a popular vote count.     Under that scenario, a landslide would occur when the winning candidate in a two-way election receives 58% of the vote, leaving his opponent with 42%.

There are variations of the 15-point landslide definition. Political news website Politico has defined a landslide election as being one in which the winning candidate beats their opponent by at least 10 percentage points, for example.   And well-known political blogger Nate Silver of The New York Times has defined a landslide district as being one in which a presidential vote margin deviated by at least 20 percentage points from the national result.   Political scientists Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen Thompson Hill say in their book "The Facts on File Dictionary of American Politics" that a landslide occurs when a candidate is able to win 60% of the popular vote.


Acceptance Speech at the Democratic National Convention (1936)

Many primary documents relate to multiple themes in American history and government and are curated by different editors for particular collections. In the dropdown menu, we provide links to variant excerpts of the document, with study questions relevant to particular themes.

Related Resources

Introduction

President Roosevelt won renomination easily at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia. So strong politically was Roosevelt that he was able to get the convention to overturn the rule requiring a candidate to get two-thirds of the delegates’ votes to win nomination. In place since 1832, the rule had increased the power of southern delegations at the convention. In the long term, the change began the decline of southern Democratic power and helped Roosevelt win another nomination in 1940.

Roosevelt’s acceptance speech, delivered outside to a nighttime crowd of more than 100,000 people, drew an extended analogy between the patriots of 1776 fighting for political freedom from their aristocratic oppressors and Americans of Roosevelt’s day fighting for economic freedom from the “privilege princes of . . . new economic dynasties.” Roosevelt brought his speech to a close by highlighting the importance of moral principle – faith, hope, and charity – and by declaring, in one of his most famous phrases, that “this generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny.”

Source: Franklin D. Roosevelt: “Acceptance Speech for the Renomination for the Presidency, Philadelphia, Pa.,” June 27, 1936. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project, http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=15314.

. . . [F]reedom, in itself and of necessity, suggests freedom from some restraining power. In 1776 we sought freedom from the tyranny of a political autocracy – from the eighteenth century royalists who held special privileges from the crown. It was to perpetuate their privilege that they governed without the consent of the governed that they denied the right of free assembly and free speech that they restricted the worship of God that they put the average man’s property and the average man’s life in pawn to the mercenaries of dynastic power that they regimented the people.

And so it was to win freedom from the tyranny of political autocracy that the American Revolution was fought. That victory gave the business of governing into the hands of the average man, who won the right with his neighbors to make and order his own destiny through his own Government. Political tyranny was wiped out at Philadelphia on July 4, 1776.

Since that struggle, however, man’s inventive genius released new forces in our land which reordered the lives of our people. The age of machinery, of railroads of steam and electricity the telegraph and the radio mass production, mass distribution – all of these combined to bring forward a new civilization and with it a new problem for those who sought to remain free.

For out of this modern civilization economic royalists carved new dynasties. New kingdoms were built upon concentration of control over material things. Through new uses of corporations, banks and securities, new machinery of industry and agriculture, of labor and capital – all undreamed of by the fathers – the whole structure of modern life was impressed into this royal service.

There was no place among this royalty for our many thousands of small business men and merchants who sought to make a worthy use of the American system of initiative and profit. They were no more free than the worker or the farmer. Even honest and progressive-minded men of wealth, aware of their obligation to their generation, could never know just where they fitted into this dynastic scheme of things.

It was natural and perhaps human that the privileged princes of these new economic dynasties, thirsting for power, reached out for control over Government itself. They created a new despotism and wrapped it in the robes of legal sanction. In its service new mercenaries sought to regiment the people, their labor, and their property. And as a result the average man once more confronts the problem that faced the Minute Man.

The hours men and women worked, the wages they received, the conditions of their labor – these had passed beyond the control of the people, and were imposed by this new industrial dictatorship. The savings of the average family, the capital of the small business man, the investments set aside for old age – other people’s money – these were tools which the new economic royalty used to dig itself in.

Those who tilled the soil no longer reaped the rewards which were their right. The small measure of their gains was decreed by men in distant cities.

Throughout the Nation, opportunity was limited by monopoly. Individual initiative was crushed in the cogs of a great machine. The field open for free business was more and more restricted. Private enterprise, indeed, became too private. It became privileged enterprise, not free enterprise.

An old English judge 1 once said: “Necessitous men are not free men.” Liberty requires opportunity to make a living – a living decent according to the standard of the time, a living which gives man not only enough to live by, but something to live for.

For too many of us the political equality we once had won was meaningless in the face of economic inequality. A small group had concentrated into their own hands an almost complete control over other people’s property, other people’s money, other people’s labor – other people’s lives. For too many of us life was no longer free liberty no longer real men could no longer follow the pursuit of happiness.

Against economic tyranny such as this, the American citizen could appeal only to the organized power of Government. The collapse of 1929 showed up the despotism for what it was. The election of 1932 was the people’s mandate to end it. Under that mandate it is being ended.

The royalists of the economic order have conceded that political freedom was the business of the Government, but they have maintained that economic slavery was nobody’s business. They granted that the Government could protect the citizen in his right to vote, but they denied that the Government could do anything to protect the citizen in his right to work and his right to live.

Today we stand committed to the proposition that freedom is no half-and-half affair. If the average citizen is guaranteed equal opportunity in the polling place, he must have equal opportunity in the market place.

These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power. Our allegiance to American institutions requires the overthrow of this kind of power. In vain they seek to hide behind the Flag and the Constitution. In their blindness they forget what the Flag and the Constitution stand for. Now, as always, they stand for democracy, not tyranny for freedom, not subjection and against a dictatorship by mob rule and the over-privileged alike.

The brave and clear platform adopted by this Convention, to which I heartily subscribe, sets forth that Government in a modern civilization has certain inescapable obligations to its citizens, among which are protection of the family and the home, the establishment of a democracy of opportunity, and aid to those overtaken by disaster.

But the resolute enemy within our gates is ever ready to beat down our words unless in greater courage we will fight for them.

For more than three years we have fought for them. This Convention, in every word and deed, has pledged that that fight will go on.

The defeats and victories of these years have given to us as a people a new understanding of our Government and of ourselves. Never since the early days of the New England town meeting have the affairs of Government been so widely discussed and so clearly appreciated. It has been brought home to us that the only effective guide for the safety of this most worldly of worlds, the greatest guide of all, is moral principle.

We do not see faith, hope and charity as unattainable ideals, but we use them as stout supports of a Nation fighting the fight for freedom in a modern civilization.

Faith – in the soundness of democracy in the midst of dictatorships.

Hope – renewed because we know so well the progress we have made.

Charity – in the true spirit of that grand old word. For charity literally translated from the original means love, the love that understands, that does not merely share the wealth of the giver, but in true sympathy and wisdom helps men to help themselves.

We seek not merely to make Government a mechanical implement, but to give it the vibrant personal character that is the very embodiment of human charity. . . .

In the place of the palace of privilege we seek to build a temple out of faith and hope and charity. . . .

Governments can err, Presidents do make mistakes, but the immortal Dante tells us that divine justice weighs the sins of the cold-blooded and the sins of the warm-hearted in different scales.

Better the occasional faults of a Government that lives in a spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a Government frozen in the ice of its own indifference.

There is a mysterious cycle in human events. To some generations much is given. Of other generations much is expected. This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny.

In this world of ours in other lands, there are some people, who, in times past, have lived and fought for freedom, and seem to have grown too weary to carry on the fight. They have sold their heritage of freedom for the illusion of a living. They have yielded their democracy.

I believe in my heart that only our success can stir their ancient hope. They begin to know that here in America we are waging a great and successful war. It is not alone a war against want and destitution and economic demoralization. It is more than that it is a war for the survival of democracy. We are fighting to save a great and precious form of government for ourselves and for the world.

I accept the commission you have tendered me. I join with you. I am enlisted for the duration of the war.

Study Questions

A. What was Roosevelt’s purpose in drawing a comparison between the Revolution in 1776 and his efforts since taking office? When Roosevelt spoke of a “rendezvous with destiny,” what did he mean?

B. Compare the argument and rhetoric of this speech with Roosevelt’s Commonwealth Address. Has he changed his views or his manner of expressing them?


History Of The Democratic Party

One of the two major political parties in the US is the Democratic Party. With its roots being traced back to the late 18th Century Democratic Party has arguably been the most important party in US history. The Democratic Party dominated US politics at the national level between 1828 and 1860 and again from 1932 to 1968, and a majority of American voters still identify as Democrats today even though the Party has lost ground in many areas of the country over the past 50 years. Here is a brief overview of the history of the Democratic Party.

Before the Democratic Party

The Federalist and Democratic-Republican Parties participated in spirited debates regarding the direction of the young country during the late 18th and early 19th Centuries.

After the U.S. Constitution came into effect in 1789, the voters and elected officials divided into two rival political factions. The first such group was the Federalist Party, which favored a strong and active federal government ruled by a wealthy elite. The second group was the Democratic-Republican Party, which advocated dispersing power more broadly among white male property owners. By the time of the 1824 Presidential Election, the Federalists Party mostly collapsed, leaving the Democratic-Republican Party as the only remaining political party in the US.

During the 1820s new states entered the union, voting laws were relaxed, and several states passed legislation that provided for the direct election of presidential electors by voters. These changes split the Democratic-Republicans into factions, each of which nominated a candidate in the presidential election of 1824. The party’s congressional caucus chose William H. Crawford of Georgia, but Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams, the leaders of the party’s two most significant factions also sought the presidency. House Speaker Henry Clay was nominated by the Kentucky and Tennessee legislatures. Jackson won a majority of the popular and electoral vote, but no candidate received the necessary majority in the electoral college. When the election went to the House of Representatives, Clay threw his support to Adams, who won the House vote and subsequently appointed Clay secretary of state.

Andrew Jackson is the father of the modern Democratic Party.

Despite Adams’s victory, differences between the Adams and the Jackson factions persisted. Adams’s supporters, representing Eastern interests and progressive economic and social policies, called themselves the National Republicans. Jackson, whose strength was in the South and West, referred to his followers as Democrats. The Jacksonian branch advocated economic populism, social conservatism, and rural values. Jackson defeated Adams in the 1828 presidential election by a landslide and soon began to implement his right-wing, populist agenda (which was in many ways similar to the modern-day “Tea-Party” movement in the Republican Party and is cited by President Donald Trump as an inspiration for his policies). In 1832 in Baltimore, Maryland, the Democrats nominated Jackson for a second term as President, drafted a party platform, and established a rule that required party presidential and vice presidential nominees to receive the votes of at least two-thirds of the national convention delegates, thus establishing the Convention System, which nominated all Presidential candidates between 1832 and 1976.

Growth & Decline of the Democratic Party

From 1828 to 1856 the Democrats won all Presidential elections except 1840 and 1848 and controlled Congress with substantial majorities. As the 1840s and 1850s progressed, the Democratic Party suffered internal strains over the issue of extending slavery to the Western territories. Southern Democrats wanted to allow slavery in all the areas of the country, while Northern Democrats proposed that each territory should decide the question for itself through a public vote. The issue split the Democrats at their 1860 presidential convention, where Southern Democrats nominated Vice President John C. Breckinridge, and Northern Democrats nominated Senator Stephen Douglas. The 1860 election also included John Bell, the nominee of the Constitutional Union Party, and Abraham Lincoln, the Republican candidate. With the Democrats split, Lincoln was elected president with only about 40 percent of the national vote.

American Presidential elections during the late 19th Century were split based on ethnic, regional, and ideological lines.

The election of 1860 is regarded by most political observers as the first of the country’s three “critical” elections—contests that produced sharp yet enduring changes in party loyalties across the country. It established the Democratic and Republican parties, which represented the right and left of the political spectrum respectively. In federal elections from the 1870s to the 1890s, the parties were evenly split except in the South, where the Democrats dominated because most whites blamed the Republican Party for both the American Civil War and Reconstruction. The two parties controlled Congress for almost equal periods through the rest of the 19th century, though the Democratic Party held the presidency only during the two terms of Grover Cleveland (1885–89 and 1893–97).

A Shift Towards Progressivism

The Democratic Party began to move to the left during the 1896 Presidential Election with the nomination of former Nebraska Congressman William Jennings Bryan. In contrast to prior Democratic nominees, Bryan advocated a progressive platform meant to counter the growing power of economic elites and return some semblance of stability to the common man. Even though Bryan ultimately lost to Republican William McKinley, his nomination resulted in a permanent realignment of both political parties on economic policy. The progressive trend within the Democratic Party continued under President Woodrow Wilson (1913-21). Wilson championed various liberal economic reforms, such as federal banking regulation, child labor laws, the break up of business monopolies, and pure food and drug regulations.

The peak of the Modern Democratic Party

President Roosevelt is credited with reviving the Democratic Party during the 1930s and 1940s.

The stock market crash of 1929 and the subsequent start of the Great Depression was the primary catalyst for the Democratic Party revival of the mid-20th Century. Led by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Democrats not only regained the presidency but also replaced the Republicans as the majority party. Through his political skills and his sweeping New Deal social programs, Roosevelt forged a broad coalition including small farmers, some ethnic minorities, organized labor, urban dwellers, liberals, intellectuals, and reformers that enabled the Democratic Party to retain the presidency until 1952 and to control both houses of Congress for most of the period from the 1930s to the mid-1990s. Roosevelt was reelected in 1936, 1940, and 1944 and was the only president to be elected to more than two terms. Upon his death in 1945, Roosevelt was succeeded by Vice President Harry S. Truman, who was narrowly elected in 1948. The only Republican President during this period was Dwight D. Eisenhower, the former Supreme Allied Commander during World War II and a largely liberal Republican.

Despite having overwhelming control over the American political system, the Democratic Party began to witness divisions regarding the issue of civil rights during the 1930s. Northern Democrats mostly favored federal civil rights reforms, whereas Southern Democrats expressed violent opposition to such proposals. As the 1950s progressed, many Southern Democrats Senators such as future President Lyndon Johnson (TX), Estes Kefauver (TN), Claude Pepper (FL), and Ralph Yarborough (TX) began to embrace the idea of civil rights and sought to push the Democratic Party to take a firm stance in favor of the issue. After the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, President Lyndon Johnson took charge on civil rights and pushed Congress to pass the previously-stalled Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Civil Rights Act of 1968. These efforts led to another realignment in American politics that resulted in the Republican Party gaining ground with Southern Whites and the Democratic Party cementing its support amongst minority voters and liberal voters in the Northeast and West Coast.

The New Democratic Party

The Democratic Party under President Bill Clinton moved to the right on economic issues and to the left on social issues.

By the late 1960s, the extended period of Democratic Party domination was coming to an end. With the party split over issues such as the Vietnam War, civil rights, and the proper role of government, Republican candidate Richard Nixon was able to defeat Vice President Hubert Humphrey and independent segregationist candidate George Wallace by a comfortable margin. Despite retaining control over both houses of Congress until 1994, the Democratic Party lost 6 out of the 9 Presidential elections between 1968 and 2004. To regain support at the Presidential level and capitalize on public dissatisfaction (particularly in the Northeast and West Coast) at the continuing rightward drift of the Republican Party, the Democratic Party started to move towards the political center during the late 1980s and 1990s. Under the leadership of President Bill Clinton (1993-2001), the Democratic Party adopted neo-liberal economic policies such as free trade advocacy, support for targeted tax cuts, and fiscal conservatism. Additionally, the Democratic Party during this period began to move towards the left on social issues such as gay rights, abortion, and the role of religion to gain ground in the mostly secular Northeast and West Coast. Even though these policies endeared the Democratic Party to numerous voting groups, they negatively impacted Democratic chances in the Appalachian and Ozarks regions in the South, parts of the Midwest, and in the Great Plains states.

Future of the Democratic Party

In the 2016 Presidential Election, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by almost 3 million but ended up losing the electoral vote by a close margin. These results reveal that the Democratic Party is regaining its status as the nations majority party, albeit with an entirely different coalition of voters. Additionally, Clinton performed strongly in several typically-Republican states such as Texas, Utah, Georgia, Arizona, and North Carolina. Perhaps these results indicate a new trend that will allow the Democratic Party to gain control of the Southwest and some of the more cosmopolitan Southern states.


Truman to Kennedy: 1945-1963

Harry Truman took over unexpectedly in 1945, and the rifts inside the party that Roosevelt had papered over began to emerge. Former Vice President Henry A. Wallace denounced Truman as a war-monger for his anti-Soviet programs, the Truman Doctrine, Marshall Plan, and NATO. By cooperating with internationalist Republicans, Truman succeeded in defeating isolationists on the right and pro-Soviets on the left to establish a Cold War program that lasted until the fall of Communism in 1991. Wallace supporters and fellow travelers of the far left were pushed out of the party and the CIO in 1946-48 by young anti-Communists like Hubert Humphrey, Walter Reuther, and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.. Hollywood emerged in the 1940s as an importance new base in the party, led by movie-star politicians such as Ronald Reagan, who strongly supported Roosevelt and Truman at this time.

On the right the Republicans blasted Truman’s domestic policies. “Had Enough?” was the winning slogan as Republicans recaptured Congress in 1946. Many party leaders were ready to dump Truman, but they lacked an alternative. Truman counterattacked, pushing J. Strom Thurmond and his Dixiecrats out, and taking advantage of the splits inside the GOP. He was reelected in a stunning surprise. However all of Truman’s Fair Deal proposals, such as universal health care were defeated by the Conservative Coalition in Congress. His seizure of the steel industry was reversed by the Supreme Court. In foreign policy, Europe was safe but troubles mounted in Asia. China fell to the Communists in 1949. Truman entered the Korean War without formal Congressional approval—the last time a president would ever do so. When the war turned to a stalemate and he fired General Douglas MacArthur in 1951, Republicans blasted his policies in Asia. A series of petty scandals among friends and buddies of Truman further tarnished his image, allowing the Republicans in 1952 to crusade against “Korea, Communism and Corruption.” Truman dropped out of the presidential race early in 1952, leaving no obvious successor. The convention nominated Adlai Stevenson in 1952 and 1956, only to see him overwhelmed by two Eisenhower landslides.

In Congress the powerful duo of House Speaker Sam Rayburn and Senate Majority leader Lyndon B. Johnson held the party together, often by compromising with Eisenhower. In 1958 the party made dramatic gains in the midterms and seemed to have a permanent lock on Congress. Indeed, Democrats had majorities in the House every election from 1930 to 1992 (except 1946 and 1952). Most southern Congressmen were conservative Democrats, however, and they usually worked with conservative Republicans. The result was a Conservative Coalition that blocked practically all liberal domestic legislation from 1937 to the 1970s, except for a brief spell 1964-65, when Johnson neutralized its power.

The nomination of John F. Kennedy in 1960 energized the Catholic population, which jammed motorcades and turned out in heavy numbers (over 80% voted for Kennedy), while also causing a backlash among white Protestants (over 70% of whom voted for Republican candidate Richard Nixon. Reaching beyond the traditional Irish, German, Italian and Polish Catholic ethnics, Viva Kennedy set out to mobilize the previously passive Latino vote, and it provided the margin of victory for Kennedy in Texas and New Mexico. Kennedy's victory reinvigorated the party. His youth, vigor and intelligence caught the popular imagination. New programs like the Peace Corps harnessed idealism. In terms of legislation, Kennedy was stalemated by the Conservative Coalition, and anyway his proposals were all cautious and incremental. In three years he was unable to pass any significant new legislation. His election did mark the coming of age of the Catholic component of the New Deal Coalition. After 1964 middle class Catholics started voting Republicans in the same proportion as their Protestant neighbors. Except for the Chicago of Richard J. Daley, the last of the Democratic machines faded away. His involvement in Vietnam proved momentous, for his successor Lyndon Johnson decided to stay, and double the investment, and double the bet again and again until over 500,000 American soldiers were fighting in that small country.


Election of 1936: A Democratic Landslide - History

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