Robert ChilesJan 7, 2019
The Revolution of ’28
Al Smith, American Progressivism, and the Coming of the New Deal
Cornell University Press 2018
Traditionally Al Smith’s 1928 presidential campaign is remembered mainly for being the first time a Catholic was nominated as the candidate for a major political party. As Robert Chiles demonstrates in his book The Revolution of ’28: Al Smith, American Progressivism, and the Coming of the New Deal (Cornell University Press, 2018), this focus obscures Smith’s efforts to promote a progressive reform agenda during the election and the role this played in forming the “New Deal coalition” in the 1930s. Chiles traces the emergence of Smith’s progressivism to his association with the women of the settlement house movement in the 1910s, through whom he gained a greater understanding of the problems facing urban workers. As both a state legislator and as governor Smith sought to promote reforms designed to improve the lives of New Yorkers on a range of issues, from workplace safety to environmental conservation. As the nominee Smith promoted a strong progressive agenda, one that appealed to many ethnic working-class voters in the Northeast and Midwest. These voters became an important source of electoral support for Smith’s successor as the Democratic presidential nominee, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who would realize much of Smith’s proposals after winning the White House in 1932.