Why College Students Don’t Vote – Some Anecdotes

College students, and young people in general, are famous for their low voting turn-out. In the 2010 midterms, an estimated 20.9% of 18 to 19-year-olds voted – far below the estimated 51% who voted in the 2008 presidential election. 18-to-29-year-olds composed 18% of the electorate in the 2008 presidential election; in the 2010 mid-term elections, they composed a mere 11% of the electorate.

As a college student myself, I’ve had a number of conversations with individuals who did not vote this November.

One person had a mid-term on election day. This individual wasn’t very interested in politics, and so he put his mid-term as more important than his vote. Save for Proposition 19, he did not care very much about anything that was up on the ballot.

Another person forgot to register in time. This individual was also far more interested in baseball than politics, which he knew very little about.

Forgetting to register in time was the reason why another college student didn’t vote. This person was quite politically interested – he believes in the philosophy of communism – and liked to talk about international events. But he didn’t know about the actual routine of registering and applying for an absentee ballot.

This was the same with another college student that I talked with during the summer. I asked him who he was going to vote for, and he responded by saying, “Oh yeah, I forgot that we can actually vote now. How can I vote outside the state?” I then told him how to apply for an absentee ballot.

Finally, there was a college student who didn’t vote due to a mistake in his voter registration form. This mistake apparently caused the state to think he was 10-years-old.  The student attempted to correct the error, but wasn’t able to do so. In talking about this, he called himself “disenfranchised.”

Now, none of these individuals can be accused of being stupid or lazy. They are in fact the opposite – extremely bright, extremely ambitious, and extremely motivated. They constitute the future leaders of the United States.

And they all forgot to vote.

In general, it seems that lack of interest and lack of knowledge were responsible for this. Many young people have never voted before in their lives, and they are unfamiliar with what you actually need to do to vote. Unlike adults, they haven’t been doing the procedure for years. The media always urges people to vote, but it never tells you how to vote: you have to register in your state (here is the form for California), and if you go to college in a different state you need to apply for an absentee ballot for your state (here is the form for California). This is not hard to do; it is just that most young people don’t know that they have to do it or forget to do so in time.

Lack of interest also plays a role. A college student uninterested in politics, who doesn’t know how register to vote or who forgets to register, isn’t going to vote. This is probably quite common.

There are policy changes that can increase turn-out. Election-day voter registration can help young voters who forgot to register in time. Voter turn-out is much higher in states with this. Perhaps states can add a requirement to high school government classes guiding students through the registration and absentee ballot process.

But youth turn-out will probably always lag overall turn-out, as long as young people are more busy than old people.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

 

The Great Realignment: The 1928 Presidential Election, Part 1

This is the first part of two posts analyzing in detail the 1928 presidential election.

The second post can be found here.

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

The Context

In a previous post, part of a series analyzing the Democratic Party during the 1920s, I spoke of how the 1928 presidential election constituted a realigning election.

The 1928 presidential election marked the beginning of a great shift in American politics. It was when the Democratic Party started changing from a minority and fundamentally conservative organization into the party that would nominate Senator Barack Obama for president.

In 1928, the Democratic Party nominated Governor Al Smith of New York. Mr. Smith was nominated as a Catholic Irish-American New Yorker who directly represented Democratic-voting white ethnics. Mr. Smith’s Catholicism, however, constituted an affront to Democratic-voting white Southerners, who at the time were the most important part of the party’s base.

The 1928 presidential election thus saw a mass movement of white Southerners away from the Democrats, corresponding with a mass movement of white ethnics towards the Democrats. This was the beginning of the great realignment of the South to the Republican Party and the Northeast to the Democratic Party.

Several maps illustrate this point succinctly. Here is the 1924 presidential election:

Link to Map of the 1924 Presidential Election

Here is the 1928 presidential election:

Link to Map of the 1928 Presidential Election

As one can tell, there is quite a bit of change from the one presidential election to the next. Democratic strength in the Solid South weakens considerably, while the Republican Midwest and Northeast become much less red.

However, it is somewhat difficult to go further into detail just by comparing the two maps. One can sense that a lot is changing, and that certain regions of the country are moving in diametrically opposed directions. But it is all rather vague.

I therefore decided, out of curiosity, to create an actual map of the shift from 1924 to 1928. Here it is:

Link to Map of Shift From 1924 to 1928 Presidential Election

This is quite the interesting map. One can see the outlines of the current Democratic electoral map here. In some cases the correlation is quite tight. For instance, Indiana is the only state in the Midwest to vote more Republican in 1928 – and what do you know, today Indiana votes the most Republican out of all the states in that region.

In general the relationship is very strong in the eastern half of the country. The only “wrong” states are today’s Democratic strongholds of Maryland and Delaware. Also, the degree of shift does not perfectly correlate to Republican strength in some of the Southern states. But these are small details; in the East, states that moved Democratic in 1928 vote Democratic today, while states that moved Republican in 1928 vote Republican today.

West of Minnesota, however, the relationship breaks down. In more than a third of the states in the West, the way they shifted in 1928 is opposite of how they vote today. The most obvious outlier is Utah, today a rock-solid Republican stronghold that moved sharply Democratic in 1928.

There are two other very interesting and strange things that are happening in this map. They will be the subject of the next post.

--Inoljt

 

Why is Nancy Pelosi So Unpopular?

The news that Democrats have just selected Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi to continue as House Minority Leader has led a number of commentators to note her continuing unpopularity. Blogger Nate Silver, for instance, recently came up with a column titled “Is Pelosi America’s Most Unpopular Politician?

There is no denying that Ms. Pelosi is very, very unpopular. This is old news, and relatively boring stuff.

What is more interesting is exploring how Ms. Pelosi became one of the least-like politicians in America.

When Democrats came roaring to take control of Congress in 2006, Ms. Pelosi was a favorite Republican target. Conservative commentators liked to warn Americans about how extreme to the left Ms. Pelosi was. And the House leader was quite an inviting target: a congresswoman from a hotbed of American liberalism, who did not look good on television, and who occupied an inherently unpopular position (quick: name one House speaker who’s ever had positive approval ratings).

These attacks continued throughout her term in power; indeed, they continue to this very day. Republicans were quickly able to succeed in making Ms. Pelosi as disliked a figure as possible amongst conservatives. It was not hard, especially given Ms. Pelosi’s inherent liberalism.

But what really killed Ms. Pelosi’s approval ratings was the fact that Democrats declined to defend her. Ms. Pelosi got punched and punched and punched, and Democrats never bothered to punch back. Take, for instance, an everyday occurrence in cable news: a Republican commentator blasts Ms. Pelosi for being an extreme liberal out-of-touch with mainstream America. If this happens, one almost never sees the Democratic counterpart arguing that Ms. Pelosi isn’t out-of-touch. This is quite different from what happens, for instance, when a Republican commentator attacks President Barack Obama.

Even Ms. Pelosi herself didn’t bother to defend her reputation. Instead, she spent her time passing laws Republicans hated and making the life of the Republican minority miserable. Ms. Pelosi was quite good at doing this; indeed, her skills at whipping the Democratic caucus rival those of the legendary Lyndon Johnson.

In not bothering to defend Ms. Pelosi, Democrats calculated that her unpopular approval ratings did not really matter; they would not affect the mid-term or presidential elections. Most probably don’t like Ms. Pelosi anyways.

The correctness of this calculation is almost impossible to prove. The Democratic Party’s good results in 2008 would indicate that Ms. Pelosi’s unpopular ratings had little effect. Their bad results in 2010 would indicate the opposite.

Whatever the truth, one can be fairly certain that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will continue doing her best to make Republican lives as miserable as possible.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

 

What Does China Think About North Korea’s Aggression?

In discussing how America should respond to the North Korean artillery attack on South Korea, almost all the discussion invariably turns to what China will do. The only ally of North Korea, China is the only nation in the world which can effectively pressure North Korea.

There has been quite a bit of debate about what China is thinking right now. Many hope that China will value its commercial ties to the West above its ties to North Korea. Others point out, less optimistically, that China wishes to preserve North Korea – if North Korea fell, millions of impoverished refugees would flood into the country. Moreover, a reunified Korea would be aligned with the West, constituting a threat next to China’s border.

All this is very much speculation and guesswork. What does China really think about the North Korean attack?

Actually, it is very easy to find out what China thinks. In fact, the Chinese government has an official press agency: Xinhua. Most people probably don’t know this, but Xinhua can be read for free online in English.

So what does China think about the North Korean attack?

Well, what better way to find out than to go read the Chinese government’s official newspaper!

Xinhua has several articles covering the incident. Unfortunately, most of the stuff is fairly boring – a simple recitation of facts. Unlike newspapers such as the Times, there is little editorializing and little insertion of opinion. In general, more room is given to what North Korea is saying without the obvious disbelief present in Western newspapers. The frame is: South Korea says this, North Korea says that, we don’t know who’s right other than there was artillery fired by both sides.

Perhaps the most revealing section was this quote:

Though Seoul blamed Pyongyang for military provocations, there is still no way to confirm who started the shelling attack.

A statement issued by the DPRK army accused South Korea of setting off the exchange of fire, saying dozens of shells from the south fell in the waters of DPRK around Yonphyong Islet at 1:00 o’clock p.m. local time Tuesday afternoon. Ensuing shellings were countering measures of the DPRK, it said.

Acknowledging it did fire shots in the area, South Korea denied any of the test shots fell in the DPRK territory.

The incident came as South Korea was engaged in a massive annual military exercises involving some 70,000 troops, launched Monday and scheduled to last through Nov. 30. Pyongyang has repeatedly warned against such military drills, usually joined by U.S. soldiers, describing them as provocations and real threats to its security.

So here one gets a pretty clear sense of what China might say: either we don’t know who really started it, or North Korea’s attack was provoked by South Korea.

This is not very comforting for the West. For multiple times North Korea has launched military aggressions that could be construed as acts of war. Reading Xinhua seems to indicate that China still is not ready to out-and-out criticize North Korea for these attacks. The North Korean artillery attacks have not been the first time North Korea has killed South Koreans without much response. As long as China’s stance remains unchanged, it will probably not be the last.

(A note: Reporting in China can often be quite different between English-language and Chinese-language news. English reports in China generally have more freedom and leeway, and therefore may be more critical. For comparison’s sake, several articles in Chinese – translated by google – can be found here and here. The translation is pretty bad, but there didn’t seem to be too much difference between what the Chinese version and English version articles were saying.)

Why Obama Was Never the Most Liberal Senator in the United States

A common charge of Republicans during the 2008 presidential campaign was at Senator Barack Obama's perceived liberalism. Republicans often stated that Mr. Obama was the most liberal senator in the United States, according to a ranking by the National Journal. The attack against Mr. Obama's liberalism has continued during his time in office.

The ranking by the National Journal, however, seems to be flawed in several ways. Take the 2004 rankings, for instance. Guess who was ranked the most liberal Senator in 2004.

If you answered John Kerry, that's right. The exact same claim was made against Mr. Kerry in 2004, based upon the exact same ranking. And check out how highly their Vice Presidential picks ranked: Senator Joe Biden was ranked the 3rd most liberal senator when he ran for Vice President, and Senator John Edwards was ranked the 4th most liberal senator during his campaign for the spot.

The high ranking of Mr. Edwards is particularly hard to believe. John Edwards, after all, represented North Carolina - certainly not the most liberal of states. He was elected senator with a less-than-five percent margin. Indeed, in the year before 2003 Mr. Edwards was ranked the 31st most liberal senator.

In reality, Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry were far from the most liberal senators in the United States. The reason they were ranked so is due to the many votes they missed while campaigning for president.

And there are certainly senators who are far more liberal than either Mr. Obama or Mr. Kerry. Take Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Mr. Sanders is not just your typical liberal - he's actually a bona-fide socialist. Republicans often attack Mr. Obama as espousing socialism, attacks which the Obama administration usually responds are ridiculous. But Mr. Sanders actually is a socialist, and a proud one at that.

There are other quite liberal senators out there. It is hard to believe that either Mr. Obama was more liberal than Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, or Senator Barbara Boxer of California. Then there's recently defeated Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, the only senator to vote against the initial Patriot Act.

There are about a dozen other Democratic senators who also were probably more liberal than Mr. Obama. Some of these are the people who hold the levers of power in the Democratic Party, like Senator Charles Schumer of New York or Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois. Others are lesser-known senators who come from very liberal states, like Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island or Senator Daniel Akaka of Hawaii.

This is not to say that Mr. Obama was a liberal senator. He was, as a liberal-minded man representing a liberal-minded state. But to believe the conservative claim that Mr. Obama was the most liberal senator would be to believe that he was more to the left than an actual socialist. And, despite what some conservatives might believe, Mr. Obama certainly hasn't imposed socialism upon the United States

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

 

A Regional Party Limited to the South: The Democrats in the 1920s, Part 3

This is the last part of three posts analyzing the Democratic Party’s struggles during the 1920s, when it lost three consecutive presidential elections by landslide margins. This will focus upon the 1928 presidential election, when the Democratic Party began to change into what it is today.

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

The 1928 Presidential Election

The 1928 presidential election marked the beginning of a great shift in American politics. It was when the Democratic Party started changing from a minority and fundamentally conservative organization into the party that would nominate Senator Barack Obama for president.

All this was quite far off in 1928, however. All Democrats knew was that they had just lost two landslide elections. In 1920 and 1924, the Democratic Party had won the votes of white Southerners – and nobody else. Their last candidate had won barely more than one-fourth of the vote.

In 1928 the Democratic Party tried a different strategy. It nominated Governor Al Smith of New York, the candidate of its white ethnic constituency. In the 1920 and 1924 these voters had sat out the first election, and then voted for a third-party candidate. Mr. Smith was a Tammany Hall-bred politician and a life-long New Yorker who identified as an Irish-American.

There was just one problem: Mr. Smith was not a Christian. Rather, he was a Roman Catholic who many feared would take orders from the Pope himself.

White ethnics had abandoned the Democratic Party in the two previous presidential elections. This time it was the turn of white Southerners, who voted Republican in unprecedented numbers:

Link to Image of Vote in Former Confederacy

White Southerners may have been willing to vote for a yellow dog for president, but many drew the line at voting for a Catholic (especially one who wanted to condemn the Klu Klux Klan and supported anti-lynching legislation).

It was Republican candidate Herbert Hoover who benefited from this. Riding a strong economy and a wave of personal popularity, Mr. Hoover defeated Mr. Smith by 17.2% – a landslide on par with President Ronald Reagan’s pummeling of Democratic candidate Walter Mondale, or Mr. Hoover’s own defeat four years later.

The Transformation of the Democratic Party

The 1928 presidential election was the first time white Southerners had abandoned the Democratic Party since the Civil War, and it signaled the beginning of a sea change in American politics.

Amidst all the Republican celebration of a third massive Republican landslide, there was one disquieting sign: Democrats won more than 50% of the vote in Massachusetts, for the first time in history. Irish-American support also gained Mr. Smith more than 50% in Rhode Island (for the first time since 1852). In New York Democrats lost by less than three percent.

Thus, while white Southerners voted more Republican than ever before in the history of the Republican Party, white ethnics in the Northeast and Midwest supported their fellow Catholic in unprecedented numbers. In 1928, both Mississippi and Massachusetts voted Democratic, as the party lost by a landslide.

In the ensuing decades, the Democratic Party’s power base would shift in a slow but sure tide towards Massachusetts and away from Mississippi. 1928 was the first time Democrats relinquished much of the White Southerner vote, but it would not be the last. President Franklin D. Roosevelt stopped the trend for a generation, but after him it would resume. Democrats would become the party of Massachusetts, not the party of Mississippi.

This trend started in 1928. A comparison of the 1924 and 1928 presidential elections is revealing. In 1924, Democrats still held a lock on the South, while Republicans held a lock everywhere else:

Link to Image of United States, 1924 Presidential Election

In 1928 this began changing. Democratic strength began to move away from the South, and towards the Northeast and Midwest:

Link to Image of United States, 1928 Presidential Election

This change continues to this very day.

Conclusions

In 1928, one could be forgiven for thinking that the Democrats were consigned to permanent minority status. They had just lost three presidential landslide elections in a row. They had not controlled a House of Congress for more than a decade.

Indeed, aside from 1912 (when two Republicans split the vote), the Democratic Party had won exactly one presidential election since 1892. They had won more than 50% of the vote just one time since the Civil War; Republicans had done so nine times during the same period.

In 1928, the Democratic Party really did seem trapped as a regional-based party which had great trouble competing outside the South. Again and again, Democratic candidates were pummeled outside the former Confederacy. When they had attempted to reach out to white ethnics in 1928, White Southerners had refused to go along.

It was a terrible Catch-22, a problem Democrats had failed to surmount for almost two generations. In the end, it would take a Great Depression for them to do so.

--Inoljt

 

 

Some Advice to Evo Morales

Most informed Americans do not have a high opinion of Bolivian president Evo Morales. They think that Mr. Morales is an anti-American leftist aligned with President Hugo Chavez and former President Fidel Castro.

None of these facts is strictly wrong. President Evo Morales is a leftist; he is an ally of Venezuela and Cuba; and he certainly hates the United States.

Yet Mr. Morales is not just this. To many people in Bolivia, Mr. Morales is the Barack Obama of their country. He is the first democratically elected indigenous president, much like Mr. Obama is America’s first black president, in a country where two-thirds of the people are indigenous.

“…imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever,” British author George Orwell once wrote. For six centuries, ever since the Spanish conquest of the Americas, that boot has been stamping on the faces of the indigenas in Bolivia and other Latin American countries. Mr. Morales represents, to many Bolivians, the end of this subjugation.

Many Americans are unaware of this other side to Mr. Morales because the American media does not report it. Partly this is because many journalists do not fully understand the history of Latin America.

Mostly, however, the American media is hostile to Mr. Morales because he takes every opportunity possible to spit in America’s face. Mr. Morales delights in making his anti-Americanism as public as possible – whether he is expelling America’s ambassador, or accusing the United States of assassination attempts against him, or talking about the evils of neoliberal economic policy.

To be fair, there is certainly a reason for Mr. Morales to hate the United States. In general, American policy has been more friendly to the right-wing (i.e. non-indigenous) elements in Bolivia, mainly because  left-wing Latin American movements often slip into communism. The United States policy against coca planting also goes against the interests of the people Mr. Morales represents.

Yet for all this, spitting in the face of the world’s superpower (as Mr. Morales loves to do) is not a wise policy. Whatever its recent troubles, the United States still holds an enormous amount of influence and power – influence that will be directed against Bolivia as long as Mr. Morales continues his current anti-American policies.

This is not hard power – the United States will not intervene militarily in Bolivia anytime soon (indeed, under Mr. Obama it would probably condemn a right-wing coup against Mr. Morales). This may not even be action taken by the U.S. government.

Rather, it may look something like this: American businesswoman Ms. Smith, director of corporate operations in Latin America, picks up her morning Wall Street Journal. On the front page is an article about Bolivian nationalizations and its increasingly hostile environment to foreign investment. Ms. Smith is in the middle of deciding where to locate the company’s new factory; reading this article, and thinking about that crazy leftist Evo Morales, she crosses Bolivia off the list and instead decides to build in Brazil, where the climate is much friendlier to business. Bolivia thus loses several million dollars in possible foreign investment, and several thousand potential jobs.

The funny thing about this hypothetical is that Brazil’s President Lula de Silva probably hates the United States just as much as Evo Morales does. Mr. de Silva, however, is smart enough to keep his anti-Americanism quiet and pursue good relations with the world’s superpower. A belligerent America would only be a distraction to Brazil’s continuing and successful efforts in reducing income inequality.

This is true for Bolivia as well – a hostile America would probably hurt Bolivia and therefore hurt Mr. Morales’s attempts to raise the status of Bolivia’s poor indigenas. Being friendly with the United States would probably be a bitter pill for Mr. Morales to swallow. In the end, however, it would be better for the people he is trying to help.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

 

Why Obama Was Never the Most Liberal Senator in the United States

A common charge of Republicans during the 2008 presidential campaign was at Senator Barack Obama’s perceived liberalism. Republicans often stated that Mr. Obama was the most liberal senator in the United States, according to a ranking by the National Journal. The attack against Mr. Obama’s liberalism has continued during his time in office.

The ranking by the National Journal, however, seems to be flawed in several ways. Take the 2004 rankings, for instance. Guess who was ranked the most liberal Senator in 2004.

If you answered John Kerry, that’s right. The exact same claim was made against Mr. Kerry in 2004, based upon the exact same ranking. And check out how highly their Vice Presidential picks ranked: Senator Joe Biden was ranked the 3rd most liberal senator when he ran for Vice President, and Senator John Edwards was ranked the 4th most liberal senator during his campaign for the spot.

The high ranking of Mr. Edwards is particularly hard to believe. John Edwards, after all, represented North Carolina – certainly not the most liberal of states. He was elected senator with a less-than-five percent margin. Indeed, in the year before 2003 Mr. Edwards was ranked the 31st most liberal senator.

In reality, Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry were far from the most liberal senators in the United States. The reason they were ranked so is due to the many votes they missed while campaigning for president.

And there are certainly senators who are far more liberal than either Mr. Obama or Mr. Kerry. Take Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Mr. Sanders is not just your typical liberal – he’s actually a bona-fide socialist. Republicans often attack Mr. Obama as espousing socialism, attacks which the Obama administration usually responds are ridiculous. But Mr. Sanders actually is a socialist, and a proud one at that.

There are other quite liberal senators out there. It is hard to believe that either Mr. Obama was more liberal than Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, or Senator Barbara Boxer of California. Then there’s recently defeated Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, the only senator to vote against the initial Patriot Act.

There are about a dozen other Democratic senators who also were probably more liberal than Mr. Obama. Some of these are the people who hold the levers of power in the Democratic Party, like Senator Charles Schumer of New York or Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois. Others are lesser-known senators who come from very liberal states, like Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island or Senator Daniel Akaka of Hawaii.

This is not to say that Mr. Obama was a liberal senator. He was, as a liberal-minded man representing a liberal-minded state. But to believe the conservative claim that Mr. Obama was the most liberal senator would be to believe that he was more to the left than an actual socialist. And, despite what some conservatives might believe, Mr. Obama certainly hasn’t imposed socialism upon the United States

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

 

A Regional Party Limited to the South: The Democrats in the 1920s, Part 3

This is the last part of three posts analyzing the Democratic Party’s struggles during the 1920s, when it lost three consecutive presidential elections by landslide margins. This will focus upon the 1928 presidential election, when the Democratic Party began to change into what it is today.

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

The 1928 Presidential Election

The 1928 presidential election marked the beginning of a great shift in American politics. It was when the Democratic Party started changing from a minority and fundamentally conservative organization into the party that would nominate Senator Barack Obama for president.

All this was quite far off in 1928, however. All Democrats knew was that they had just lost two landslide elections. In 1920 and 1924, the Democratic Party had won the votes of white Southerners – and nobody else. Their last candidate had won barely more than one-fourth of the vote.

In 1928 the Democratic Party tried a different strategy. It nominated Governor Al Smith of New York, the candidate of its white ethnic constituency. In the 1920 and 1924 these voters had sat out the first election, and then voted for a third-party candidate. Mr. Smith was a Tammany Hall-bred politician and a life-long New Yorker who identified as an Irish-American.

There was just one problem: Mr. Smith was not a Christian. Rather, he was a Roman Catholic who many feared would take orders from the Pope himself.

White ethnics had abandoned the Democratic Party in the two previous presidential elections. This time it was the turn of white Southerners, who voted Republican in unprecedented numbers:

Link to Image of Vote in Former Confederacy

White Southerners may have been willing to vote for a yellow dog for president, but many drew the line at voting for a Catholic (especially one who wanted to condemn the Klu Klux Klan and supported anti-lynching legislation).

It was Republican candidate Herbert Hoover who benefited from this. Riding a strong economy and a wave of personal popularity, Mr. Hoover defeated Mr. Smith by 17.2% – a landslide on par with President Ronald Reagan’s pummeling of Democratic candidate Walter Mondale, or Mr. Hoover’s own defeat four years later.

The Transformation of the Democratic Party

The 1928 presidential election was the first time white Southerners had abandoned the Democratic Party since the Civil War, and it signaled the beginning of a sea change in American politics.

Amidst all the Republican celebration of a third massive Republican landslide, there was one disquieting sign: Democrats won more than 50% of the vote in Massachusetts, for the first time in history. Irish-American support also gained Mr. Smith more than 50% in Rhode Island (for the first time since 1852). In New York Democrats lost by less than three percent.

Thus, while white Southerners voted more Republican than ever before in the history of the Republican Party, white ethnics in the Northeast and Midwest supported their fellow Catholic in unprecedented numbers. In 1928, both Mississippi and Massachusetts voted Democratic, as the party lost by a landslide.

In the ensuing decades, the Democratic Party’s power base would shift in a slow but sure tide towards Massachusetts and away from Mississippi. 1928 was the first time Democrats relinquished much of the White Southerner vote, but it would not be the last. President Franklin D. Roosevelt stopped the trend for a generation, but after him it would resume. Democrats would become the party of Massachusetts, not the party of Mississippi.

This trend started in 1928. A comparison of the 1924 and 1928 presidential elections is revealing. In 1924, Democrats still held a lock on the South, while Republicans held a lock everywhere else:

Link to Image of United States, 1924 Presidential Election

In 1928 this began changing. Democratic strength began to move away from the South, and towards the Northeast and Midwest:

Link to Image of United States, 1928 Presidential Election

This change continues to this very day.

Conclusions

In 1928, one could be forgiven for thinking that the Democrats were consigned to permanent minority status. They had just lost three presidential landslide elections in a row. They had not controlled a House of Congress for more than a decade.

Indeed, aside from 1912 (when two Republicans split the vote), the Democratic Party had won exactly one presidential election since 1892. They had won more than 50% of the vote just one time since the Civil War; Republicans had done so nine times during the same period.

In 1928, the Democratic Party really did seem trapped as a regional-based party which had great trouble competing outside the South. Again and again, Democratic candidates were pummeled outside the former Confederacy. When they had attempted to reach out to white ethnics in 1928, White Southerners had refused to go along.

It was a terrible Catch-22, a problem Democrats had failed to surmount for almost two generations. In the end, it would take a Great Depression for them to do so.

--Inoljt

A Regional Party Limited to the South: The Democrats in the 1920s, Part 2

This is the second part of three posts analyzing the Democratic Party’s struggles during the 1920s, when it lost three consecutive presidential elections by landslide margins. This will focus upon the 1920 and 1924 presidential election, when white ethnic immigrants abandoned the Democratic Party.

The last part can be found here.

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

The 1920 Presidential Election

The Democratic Party of the early twentieth century was composed of two bases (both of which no longer vote Democratic). These were Southern whites and immigrant, often Catholic, whites from places such as Ireland and Italy. Southern whites voted Democratic due to the memory of the Civil War and could be reliably whipped up with race-baiting appeals. Immigrant ethnic whites, on the other hand, saw the Democratic Party as a vehicle of defense against the dominant, Republican-voting WASP majority in the Northeast and Midwest.

The two groups had precious little in common, save distrust of the dominant Republican Party. One of the constituencies would often only lukewarmly support the national Democratic candidate (this was usually the immigrant  camp, because without Southern whites the Democratic Party was nothing).

In 1920, ethnic whites walked out of the Democratic Party. The city machines at Tammany Hall and others did not just fail to fully back Democratic candidate James M. Cox; they outright refused to support him.

This was entirely the fault of Democratic President Woodrow Wilson. The previous year, Mr. Wilson had delicately stated that:

…there is an organized propaganda against the League of Nations and against the treaty proceeding from exactly the same sources that the organized propaganda proceeded from which threatened this country here and there with disloyalty, and I want to say — I cannot say too often — any man who carries a hyphen about with him carries a dagger that he is ready to plunge into the vitals of this Republic whenever he gets ready.

If I can catch any man with a hyphen in this great contest I will know that I have got an enemy of the Republic.

The political stupidity of this quote cannot be overstated. The “man with a hyphen” was not just a politically influential constituency; in states like New York, Massachusetts, and Wisconsin he was the Democratic Party.

This, along with Mr. Wilson making the 1920 election a referendum on his extremely unpopular League of Nations, led to the result in the map above.

Democratic candidate James M. Cox lost everywhere outside the Solid South. He got barely one-fourth of the vote in New York City, less than one-fourth in Chicago, less than one-fifth in Detroit, and so on throughout all the great non-Southern cities. In the “hyphen-heavy” states of Wisconsin, the Dakotas, and Minnesota, Mr. Cox failed to break the 20% mark. Even in the Solid South, Republicans broke 30% of the vote – for the first time since 1908, when disenfranchisement of blacks was complete.

All in all, Democratic candidate James M. Cox lost by 26.2% – the greatest defeat in the popular vote, ever.

The 1924 Presidential Election

In 1924, the Democratic Party nominated a man with the distinction of being more conservative than the Republican.

Little known John W. Davis was not just a social conservative who endorsed segregation – that was true for all Southern Democrats at the time – but also an economic conservative. Mr. Davis believed in small government, states rights, and would go on to oppose President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal.

Mr. Davis was nominated as a compromise candidate after one of the longest and nastiest Democratic conventions in history – a bitter fight with immigrant whites from big cities against Southern and Western rural whites. By the time the convention had ended, it was clear that Democrats didn’t stand a chance of winning the 1924 presidential election. After Mr. Davis’s nomination, ethnic whites walked out once again.

In 1924, Democrats lost big again. They lost by more than Walter Mondale against Ronald Reagan. They lost by more than Herbert Hoover against FDR. All in all, the Democratic candidate lost by the second greatest popular margin in American history, right after 1920.

Mr. Davis won between one-fourth and one-third of the votes. Southern whites stayed loyal; indeed, he did a quite bit better than Mr. Cox in 1920 in the Solid South.

White ethnics did not. In 1920 white immigrants had sat out the election. This time they voted for Governor Senator Robert La Follette, who was the only liberal candidate in the race. Mr. La Follette did better than the Democratic candidate in a dozen states.

Everybody else voted for Republican candidate Calvin Coolidge. Mr. Davis lost almost every single non-Southern city, including all five boroughs of New York (the last time a Democratic presidential candidate would lose New York). In Detroit, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and San Francisco the Democratic candidate got less than 10% of the vote.

All in all, Mr. Davis failed to break 30% in more than half the states:

Link to Map of Mr. Davis's Vote

In the aftermath of this election – a second disastrous election in a row for Democrats – it was clear that a change in strategy was needed. For two elections in a row, Democrats had won Southern whites and nobody else.

In 1928, therefore, the Democratic Party nominated the candidate of the white ethnics to run for president. This time it was the turn of the Southern whites to walk out.

--Inoljt

 

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