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TheCanadian Review of American Studies, Volume 11, No. 2, Fall 1980 The.Makingof the Roosevelt Coalition: SomeReconsiderations KnstlAndersen. The Creation of a Democratic .\faiority 1928-1936. Chicago and London: University ofChicagoPress, 1979. 160 + xv pp. BarbaraBlumberg. The New Deal and the Unemployed: TheViewfrom New York City. Lewisburg, Pa., and London: Bucknell UniversityPress and Associated University Presses,1979.332 pp. Stdnev Fine. Frank Murphy: The Detroit Years. .\nnArbor: University of Michigan Press, 1975. 608 + ix pp. Sidney Fine. Frank Murphy: The New Deal Years. Chicagoand London: University of Chicago Press, 1'179. 708+ xii pp. JohnW. Jeffries. Testing the Roosevelt Coalition: ConnecticutSociety and Politics in the Era of World WarII. Knoxville:University of Tennessee Press, 1979. 312+ xivpp. MarthaH. Swain.Pat Harrison: The New Deal Years. Jackson:University Press of Mississippi, 1978. 316+ix pp. John Braeman TheNewDeal remains not only a major topic for research among students ofAmerican history, but, even more than three decades after Roosevelt's death, a subject of continuing historiographical controversy. One focal pointofthiscontroversy involvesits socio-economic aspect. The contemporary conservativeindictment has found few exponents among later historians. 1 Rather the historiographical controversy has largely pitted liberals against radicals-those who praise the New Deal for successfully relieving distress, disciplining business and humanizing the industrial order versus those who fault theRoosevelt administration for failing to transform the basic structure of socio-economic power in the United States. 2 The second area of scholarly debate concerns the political impact of the New Deal. No one questions that the years from 1928through 1936witnessed adramatic realignment of the electorate. And there is a broad consensus on the basic parameters of this realignment as delineated in Samuel Lubell's nowclassic The Future of American Politics: that the backbone of the new Democratic majority was the low-income, foreign-stock masses in the nation'scities.3 What is at issue is the when, how and why. The dispute over whenrevolves around the relative importance of what Lubell termed the "Al SmithRevolution" vis-a-visthe depression and the NewDeal in the realigning process. 4 The dispute over the how pits those who postulate the "conversion" 234 John Braeman of former Republicans versus those who argue that the Democratic gains came primarily from the "mobilization" of new voters. On the surface,the differences between the exponents of "conversion" and "mobilization"appear to center upon technical points of voting analysis. But there is an underlying ideological dimension whose core issue is the fundamental tenet of the traditional democratic faith: the degree of voter rationality. The intellectual father of the "conversion" thesis was the late V. O.Key, Jr. A champion of voter rationality, Key argued that a significant portionof the electorate shifted sides every election in response to changing policy issues. A major realignment thus occurred when in what he called a "critical election" a large-scale and lasting shift in partisan allegiances took placeasa result of new issues cutting across existing lines of party division and dividing the electorate in new ways.5 Subsequent theorists-including Key himselfin his later works-modified this concept by postulating a "critical period'' encompassing several elections. 6 But the how of the realignment that resulted in the Roosevelt majority of 1936remains a massive shift of former Republican voters to the Democrats. 7 In contrast, the group of political scientists associated with the University of Michigan Survey Research Center has stressed not only the persistence and stability of party identification when once established, but even its transmission from parents to their children. While acknowledging in their The American Voter that "occasional cataclysmic national events havehad the power to produce substantial realignment in long-standing divisionsof political sentiment," the Michigan group went on to conclude that party changers were not, "a very large," or a long-committed, part of the increasein democratic voting strength from 1928on. Although they did not explorein depth their suggestion that "a larger component of the gain came from young voters entering the electorate and older people who had previously failed to vote,"8 this point has been taken up and elaborated by Kristi Andersen, first in her chapter on the New Deal realignment in the Twentieth Century Fund study, The ChangingAmerican Voter,9 and...


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