The Italian-American Vote in Providence, Rhode Island, 1916-1948

By Stefano Luconi | Go to book overview

6
The Late New Deal and the Impact of
World War II and Its Aftermath

ON THE EVE OF THE 1936 ELECTIONS, MCGRATH WROTE TO JAMES A. Farley, the chairperson of the Democratic National Committee, that he did not expect Rhode Island's Italian Americans to cast a majority of their ballots for incumbent U.S. Republican Senator Jesse H. Metcalf because [the Democrats have given many good positions to Italo-Americans, and we have many of them running on the various local tickets.] Indeed, McGrath's forecast proved to be correct at least for Providence and Metcalf received only 32.5 percent of the Italian-American vote. A multimillionaire and a philanthropist with a large personal following throughout the state, Metcalf was lavish in distributing his federal patronage among Italian Americans and even provided them with jobs at the Wanskuck Company, a textile mill that he himself owned. But, as seen in the previous chapter, the Democratic Party was more generous and was paid back on Election Day. To many Italian Americans, bartering one's vote for employment was a reasonable and advantageous quid pro quo in hard times. As a Robert Laurelli has recalled, [those were Depression days… and if you were fortunate and could be attached politically to either a state or a city position, you might be all right—if not, you were in trouble.]1

After Green replaced Metcalf as one of Rhode Island's senators in Washington, he joined forces with Gerry and the federal patronage available to the Democratic Party further increased. Green, for instance, wanted and obtained that [all the nominations for postmasters in my state be sent to my office.] The political cooperation between President Roosevelt and Green was particularly beneficial to this latter's constituents in the second half of the 1930s. As Russo has recalled, [an ally of the president, Senator Theodore Francis Green got a good, strong oar in for Rhode Island. Millions

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The Italian-American Vote in Providence, Rhode Island, 1916-1948
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • Acknowledgments 7
  • 1: Introduction 11
  • 2: The Setting 19
  • 3: Rhode Island Politics and the Italian-American Vote Before World War I 28
  • 4: The Postwar Decade 49
  • 5: The Depression Years 71
  • 6: The Late New Deal and the Impact of World War II and Its Aftermath 91
  • 7: Conclusion 120
  • 8: A Methodological Note on Electoral Sources 132
  • Notes 136
  • Bibliography 168
  • Index 186
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