The Coalitions that Symbolized and Shaped the Modern American Political Parties
Below we explain the basics of the “Progressive Left” New Deal Coalition and the “Big Tent Right” Conservative Coalition. Both started in the 1930’s when the FDR “Socially Progressive” “Big Government” Liberals in both parties began squaring off against the Hoover “Anti-Communist” “Socially Conservative” “Small Government” Conservatives in both parties. The tug-of-war between progressivism and conservatism that created the modern major political parties.
Defining the New Deal Coalition and Conservative Coalition
This story is less about the coalitions and more about their effect, see the links and videos below for details on each, right now we just want to touch on them, so you understand what they are.
What is the New Deal Coalition?
The New Deal Coalition was a coalition of socially liberal interest groups and voting blocs in the United States that supported the New Deal and voted for Democratic presidential candidates from 1932 until the late 1960s. At that time the bloc included the Southern Bloc, so it included socially conservative populist liberals and some party allies too.
The New Deal made the Democratic Party the majority party during that period, losing only to Dwight D. Eisenhower, in 1952 and 1956. However, it also created some extreme conservative opposition who didn’t like the progressive left and globalist direction of the country. That opposition would go on to shape modern politics just as much as the New Deal.
The coalition included banking and oil industries, the Democratic state party organizations, city machines, labor unions, blue collar workers, minorities (racial, ethnic and religious), farmers, white Southerners, people on relief, and intellectuals. The coalition began to fall apart with the bitter factionalism during the 1968 election (when the Conservative Coalition began to implement its Sixth Party Strategy and race was a huge issue following Voting Rights 1965).
The coalition is no longer with us in name. However, minus its solid south conservatives and some big oil ties, the faction is with us in spirit because it essentially IS the Democratic Party.The New Deal: Crash Course US History #34.
What is the Conservative Coalition?
The conservative coalition is harder to define than the New Deal. It was an unofficial Congressional coalition bringing together a conservative majority of the Republican Party and the conservative, mostly Southern, wing of the Democratic Party.
However, over time, as the Democrats grew into a more progressive party, it became emblematic of the push-back against progressivism.
Today, with the Republican Party being “a big tent of socially conservative and pro-business conservative” factions, we can say the Conservative Coalition is the Republican Party, and most certainly they managed to take the Southern Bloc with them. Look at the voter map flipping in the 20th century.End of the New Deal.
The New Deal and Conservative Coalitions and the 20th Century Reversal
These coalitions were formed because liberals and conservatives used to be in different parties (generally in the Democratic Party and Republican Party respectively), and now they aren’t. This switching of factions and party members over time is one major aspect of what we mean when we say “the parties switched.”The New Deal Realignment – by Dr. Dan Palazzolo.
The History of the New Deal Coalition and Conservative Coalition and Their Impact on America
It used to be that both parties had a left-wing and right-wing when it came to progressive politics and social issues.
Consider, the progressives Teddy Roosevelt and Lincoln were Republicans, but the progressives Jefferson and William Jennings Bryan were Democrats.
Teddy’s Social Liberals tended to be a little more elitist than Jeffersonian Liberals, but both were socially liberal in their own ways.
After the Gilded Age and Progressive era, and especially during the World Wars and following Teddy’s split from the Republican Party to form his Bull Moose Progressive Party, things changed.
Starting with Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover, the Republicans started returning to classical conservative economics and pushing for small government. With the 1880’s – 1900’s only a bit in the review at that point; it was only natural for the business-wing of the conservative party to want to conserve back to it. Also, with the World Wars, Red Scares, October Revolution, and rise of the Leninists, Progressive leftism probably looked a bit too much like Communism for conservative comfort.
Let us just say, that post-1916 income tax Republicans didn’t love Wilson or Teddy, and they really, really, didn’t like FDR. Imagine, FDR takes us to war, and the top tax rate grows to the 90% range! From the right perspective, that looks like Communism. Then we fought against those poor German Fascists (AKA the leader of the Axis). All they wanted to do was make Germany Great again, and we sided with Stalin! Oh, the nerve. Well, at least that is what IBM, and GE, and Ford, and Limburg, and the America First Americans with light complexions and right-wing politics thought.
Small group Fascism didn’t win the day; centered and Democratic American liberalism (which is what all conservative and liberal centered Americans are) did, and we became a superpower.
During the 1930’s to late 1940’s the New Deal Coalition and Conservative Coalitions continued to go head-to-head at home despite the tension abroad. In this tense battle, politicians began switching sides. States’ rights parties broke out and tried to take the Deep South or, at times, the two-party South. Each of the Southern states has slightly different politics.
The result was that the Conservative Coalition blocked the New Deal Coalition policies over and over. New Deal wanted change in general. Conservatives didn’t, so Conservatives were typically playing defense.
This gambit didn’t just color the factions; it colored the parties and the rest of American history.
Everything came to a head over LBJ’s Kennedy-inspired Civil Rights 1964 and Voting Rights Act in 1965 when black people could finally vote freely. The problem with this, as with Women’s Rights, is the truism that women and black Americans tend to be more liberal and less socially conservative. It isn’t a social issue for many directly.
Why don’t women and black Americans want to go back to 1900? Well, you know why of course. Why are there no black NAZIs? Again, rhetorical question.
The Conservative Coalition and the New Deal Coalition used to go tit for tat as different parties reached across the aisle and blocked votes, but that changed after 1964.
What changed was the Sixth Party Republican Strategy which includes a “Southern Strategy” and the strategy that created “Fox News” and right-wing radio. You can read about the Sixth Party Republican Strategy here.
Today the coalitions don’t exist anymore by name, and that is because the Democratic Party is the New Deal Coalition (plus a business wing) and the Republican Party is the Conservative Coalition (plus a business wing). The parties are split down the middle today on social issues.
Today, the Republican Party doesn’t have a notable Progressive Socially Liberal “Federalist” Elitist Hamilton, Lincoln, Roosevelt wing, and the Democratic Party doesn’t have a notable Socially Conservative “Anti-Federalist” Populist Jackson, Calhoun, George C. Wallace wing.
Instead, today, each party has a notable populist and elitist wing. The Republicans have their Socially Conservative Tea Party right-wing Nativist Populists (which is a mash-up of States’ Rights like Sessions and America First Nationalism like Bannon) and their Classically Conservative Neocons (their business faction like McCain), both of whom favor “Small Government.” The Democratic party has their Progressive Left Populists (like Bernie) and their Neoliberals (which is a mash-up of the southern and northern liberals, both of which can be seen in the Clintons; or Al Gore and Obama if you like), both of whom favor “Big Government.”From white supremacy to Barack Obama: The history of the Democratic Party. How the Republican Party went from Lincoln to Trump.