Alfred E. Smith and Transitional Progressivism: The Revolution before the New Deal
Sicilia, David B.
MetadataShow full item record
In New York State in the 1910s and 1920s, two groups of political actors--largely female social work reformers from the settlement house tradition, and legislators from urban ethnic political machines--coalesced to develop a unique political amalgam: transitional progressivism. Transitional progressivism brought together the common interests of these two groups, forging an agenda that sought to expand the role of the state in protecting industrial laborers, ensuring social welfare, and promoting cultural pluralism. Through a complex process, this agenda became Democratic partisan dogma--first in New York and then nationally; and during both the implementation of this program and the articulation of the broader ideology of the transitional progressives in the context of state and national campaigns, transitional progressivism became the political platform of America's urban ethnic working-class voters. Through these voters and their political representatives, many priorities from the transitional progressive tradition became important facets of New Deal liberalism. Thus, by way of transitional progressivism, key elements of Progressive Era reform evolved into hallmarks of the New Deal. The foremost practitioner of this unique progressivism was Alfred E. Smith, a Democrat who served four terms as governor of New York and ran unsuccessfully for president in 1928. Part I explores the rise of transitional progressivism and its implementation during the Smith governorship. Part II presents a revisionist interpretation of the 1928 presidential contest. The conclusion follows the developments of 1928 into the 1930s, suggesting ways in which transitional progressivism exerted an important influence on the development of the New Deal.