From 1932-1968 the so-called New Deal Coalition delivered the White House to the Democratic Party in presidential elections. The two Eisenhower elections in 1952 and 1956 were seen as deviating elections, which due to Eisenhower s personal popularity interrupted an established Democratic voting pattern. The southerners were the first to leave the New Deal coalition due to the Democratic Party s commitment to civil rights. By 1968, the South had become Republican territory in presidential elections.
In the 1968 and the 1972 presidential elections, the Democratic Party lost support among another very important voter group: the white ethnics in the urban North. The white ethnics were people of Southern European and Eastern European decent whose forefathers had started to arrive in the USA in the 1880s. These voters had cast their ballot for the party of Roosevelt loyally since 1932. What happened at the end of the 1960s that made these voters leave their old party and turn to the Republican Party instead?
In my thesis I will show that the issue of race was instrumental in driving also the white ethnics in the North away from the Democratic Party. After 1965, the civil rights movement stopped being a predominantly southern phenomenon and went national. At the same time the focus of the movement shifted from equality of opportunity for African Americans to equality of result. This shift of focus brought issues such as busing and affirmative action on the political agenda. How did the white ethnics react when the struggle for civil rights went North, and started to affect their every day life? How did it affect their relationship to a Democratic Party increasingly committed to helping minorities in the American society?
This thesis will show how the Democratic Party s internal reform process after the 1968 Democratic National Convention and its commitment to civil rights made the party neglect the white ethnic voters. This would prove to be a fatal mistake in the 1968 and the 1972 presidential elections.