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

By Stefano Luconi | Go to book overview

7
Conclusion

WITH AN ESTIMATED ELIGIBLE ELECTORATE OF NEARLY FOUR million potential voters nationwide in the prewar decade, Italian Americans were a key component of the coalition of ethnic groups that elected Franklin D. Roosevelt to the White House in 1932 and contributed to the creation of the Democratic majority that dominated U.S. politics, at least in presidential contests, for roughly twenty years. Conventional scholarly wisdom usually has it that, after voting Republican in the first two decades of the twentieth century because they identified the GOP with economic prosperity and the Wilson administration with the rejection of Italy's claims at Versailles, most Italian Americans shifted their partisan attachment from the Republican to the Democratic Party between the late 1920s and the early 1930s in response to both Smith's ethnic appeal and the association of the GOP with the Depression. As this argument further goes, the labor and social legislation of the New Deal strengthened their Democratic affiliation in the subsequent years. Yet President Roosevelt's harsh rebuke of Italy's eleventh-hour declaration of war on France in June 1940 marked the beginning of Italian Americans' desertion of the Democratic coalition and return to the Republican camp in the war years. But Harry S. Truman succeeded in revitalizing the following of the Democratic Party among Italian Americans in 1948. Stressing the role that the inclusion of Italy in the Marshall Plan—the U.S. program of economic aids for Europe's postwar reconstruction—had played in preventing communism to come to power in this country, Truman managed to reconcile a majority of the Italian-American electorate with the Democratic Party and to recapture part of the votes that his own predecessor in the White House had lost since 1940.1

This pattern, however, hardly matches the voting behavior of Providence's Italian-American community. Even former Governor

-120-

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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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