New Deal

New Deal

New Deal, in U.S. history, term for the domestic reform program of the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt; it was first used by Roosevelt in his speech accepting the Democratic party nomination for President in 1932. The New Deal is generally considered to have consisted of two phases.

The first phase (1933-34) attempted to provide recovery and relief from the Great Depression through programs of agricultural and business regulation, inflation, price stabilization, and public works. Meeting (1933) in special session, Congress established numerous emergency organizations, notably the National Recovery Administration (NRA), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA), the Civilian Conservation Corps, and the Public Works Administration. Congress also instituted farm relief, tightened banking and finance regulations, and founded the Tennessee Valley Authority. Later Democratic Congresses devoted themselves to expanding and modifying these laws. In 1934, Congress founded the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Communications Commission and passed the Trade Agreements Act, the National Housing Act, and various currency acts.

The second phase of the New Deal (1935-41), while continuing with relief and recovery measures, provided for social and economic legislation to benefit the mass of working people. The social security system was established in 1935, the year the National Youth Administration and Work Projects Administration were set up. The Fair Labor Standards Act was passed in 1938. The Revenue Acts of 1935, 1936, and 1937 provided measures to democratize the federal tax structure. A number of New Deal measures were invalidated by the Supreme Court, however; in 1935 the NRA was struck down and the following year the AAA was invalidated. The President unsuccessfully sought to reorganize the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, other laws were substituted for legislation that had been declared unconstitutional.

The New Deal, which had received the endorsement of agrarian, liberal, and labor groups, met with increasing criticism. The speed of reform slackened after 1937, and there was growing Republican opposition to the huge public spending, high taxes, and centralization of power in the executive branch of government; within the Democratic party itself there was strong disapproval from the "old guard" and from disgruntled members of the Brain Trust. As the prospect of war in Europe increased, the emphasis of government shifted to foreign affairs. There was little retreat from reform, however; at the end of World War II, most of the New Deal legislation was still intact, and it remains the foundation for American social policy.

See B. Rauch, History of the New Deal 1933-1938 (1944); A. Schlesinger, Jr., The Coming of the New Deal (1959) and The Politics of Upheaval (1960); M. Keller, ed., The New Deal: What Was It? (1963); R. Eden, ed., The New Deal and Its Legacy (1989); W. E. Leuchtenburg, The Supreme Court Reborn (1995); G. E. White, The Constitution and the New Deal (2001); A. L. Hamby, For the Survival of Democracy: Franklin Roosevelt and the World Crisis of the 1930s (2004); A. Cohen, Nothing to Fear: FDR's Inner Circle and the Hundred Days That Created Modern America (2009).

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, losing only to Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956. Franklin Delano Roosevelt created a coalition that included the Democratic party, big city machines, labor unions, minorities (racial, ethnic, and religious,) liberal farm groups, intellectuals, and the white South. The coalition fell apart after 1968, but it remains the model that party activists seek to replicate.

Realignment

The 1932 election brought about a major shifts in voting behavior, and became a permanent realignment, though some scholars point to the off-year election of 1934 as even more decisive in stabilizing the coalition. Roosevelt set up his New Deal forged 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.

Some Political scientists call the resulting new coalition the "Fifth Party System" in contrast to the Fourth Party System of the 1896-1932 era that it replaced.

Cities

Roosevelt had a magnetic appeal to city dwellers, especially the poorer minorities who got recognition, unions, and relief jobs. 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 and WPA administrator Harry Hopkins cutting deals with state and local Democratic officials, Roosevelt used federal discretionary spending, especially the Works Progress Administration (1935-1942) as a national political machine. Men on relief could get WPA jobs regardless of their politics, but hundreds of thousands of supervisory jobs were given to local Democratic machines. 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. 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. During the 1960, new issues such as civil rights, the Vietnam War, affirmative action, and large-scale 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, especially Albany, New York and Chicago. Local Democrats in most cities were heavily dependent on the WPA for patronage; when it ended in 1943 there was full employment and no replacement job source was created. Furthermore, World War II brought such a surge of prosperity that the relief mechanism of the WPA, CCC, etc. was no longer needed.

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.

Intellectuals gave increasing support to Democrats since 1932. The Vietnam War, however, caused a serious split, with the New Left reluctant to support most Democratic presidential candidates.

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 % 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)

References

  • 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)
  • Leuchtenburg, William E. The White House Looks South: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Lyndon Johnson (2005)

by William Edward Leuchtenburg

  • Manza, Jeff and Clem Brooks; Social Cleavages and Political Change: Voter Alignments and U.S. Party Coalitions, (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)

See also

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