New Deal Coalition - Cities

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.

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Famous quotes containing the word cities:

    London, thou art of townes A per se.
    Soveraign of cities, semeliest in sight,
    Of high renoun, riches, and royaltie;
    Of lordis, barons, and many goodly knyght;
    Of most delectable lusty ladies bright;
    Of famous prelatis in habitis clericall;
    Of merchauntis full of substaunce and myght:
    London, thou art the flour of Cities all
    William Dunbar (c. 1465–c. 1530)

    Lord, how long?
    Bible: Hebrew Isaiah, 6:11.

    Asking how long will the chastisement of the people last. God replies, “Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, and the Lord have removed man far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land.”