Monday, November 09, 2009

Pennsylvania Political History: Where Did All These Democrats Come From?

G. Terry Madonna. Pivotal Pennsylvania: Presidential Politics from FDR to the Twenty-First Century. Mansfield, Pa.: The Pennsylvania Historical Association, 2008.

This book argues that Pennsylvania has had unique population patterns compared to other states that led to Presidential electoral political patterns that do not resemble other states’ political histories. Democrats (also known for awhile as Democrat-Republicans) dominated electoral victories in Pennsylvania from Thomas Jefferson’s election in 1800 through Pennsylvania’s own James Buchanan in 1856. Republicans gained political dominance in Pennsylvania after the Civil War. Republicans would be the leading political party in Pennsylvania until 1960. .

Pennsylvania would be the largest state to support Republican Herbert Hoover over Democrat Franklin Roosevelt in 1932. Democrats would begin building within Pennsylvania during the New Deal of the 1930s. Roosevelt would carry Pennsylvania, and every other state except for two, in 1936. Republicans would rebound and carry Pennsylvania in 1940 through Eisenhower in 1956. Democrat John Kennedy would narrowly break this trend in 1960. A notable trend leading this was an increasing trend among African Americans from the 1930s forward on becoming more apt to vote for Democrats.

Pennsylvania became a state that could be won by either party in the 1960s. Urban Catholics tended to be Democrats while rural Protestants tended to be Republicans. Pennsylvania began tilting more towards Democratic candidates in the 1990s. While both parties fought to win the state and had shots at winning, Pennsylvania has supported every Democratic Party nominee from 1992 onward. General elections, though, remained more competitive with victories won by both parties.


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