Rhode Island Politics and the Italian-
American Vote before World War I
POST-CIVIL WAR RHODE ISLAND IN GENERAL AND PROVIDENCE IN particular were Republican bailiwicks. Both of them remained GOP strongholds until the Depression of the 1930s although the state had witnessed a steady rise of its share of potentially Democratic-oriented working-class population since the 1870s. Rhode Island elected its governor every year until 1912 and, after this date, every two years. Sixty-five gubernatorial elections were, therefore, held from 1856 through 1930. Still the Democratic candidate was the winner only eight times, namely the Republican Party won almost 90 percent of the gubernatorial contests over a span of three-fourths of a century. In particular, prior to 1932, only three Democrats served as governors after the turn of the century: Lucius F. C. Garvin from 1903 to 1905, James H. Higgins from 1907 to 1909, and William S. Flynn from 1923 to 1925. Moreover, before Democratic presidential candidate Alfred E. Smith carried Rhode Island in 1928, as few as three other Democratic candidates had come on top in the races for the White House at the state level since the establishment of their party: Martin Van Buren in 1836, Franklin Pierce in 1852, and Woodrow Wilson in 1912. In 1916, although the state went Republican, Wilson was also the only Democratic standard bearer to receive a majority of the vote in a presidential contest in the city of Providence between 1896 and 1928.1
In Rhode Island, the Republican Party was the expression of the interests of the state's [Yankee] industrial establishment made up of White Anglo-Saxon Protestants. Association with southern secessionism quite naturally impaired Democratic candidates' chances of success in the 1860s and 1870s, while the GOP stood out as the symbol of national unity and patriotism. Nonetheless it was the support for a high protective tariff on industrial products as
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Publication information: Book title: The Italian-American Vote in Providence, Rhode Island, 1916-1948. Contributors: Stefano Luconi - Author. Publisher: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. Place of publication: Madison, NJ. Publication year: 2004. Page number: 28.
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