Roosevelt and the Puritans
By Arnold Kling
Walter Russell Mead has a fascinating blog post up, The Birth of the Blues. In it, he traces the roots of modern American “Blue-state” liberalism back to the Puritans, the Yankees of New England. This is a plausible argument… But New England statism has its limits; the map above shows that it is in Greater New England that resistence to FDR seems to have been deepest. I don’t necessarily chalk this up to “flinty Yankee” anti-government sentiment. Rather, I think we need to consider that the ideological content of social-political coalitions and configurations sometimes matter less than long persistent affinities across cultural networks and domains.
One could argue that the ideological core of the Roosevelt Administration was the descendants of the Puritans (along with upper-midwest immigrants from Northern Europe). However, his electoral coalition was disconnected from this ideological core. Roosevelt stitched together urban Catholics (and did relatively poorly in Protestant New England), the farm belt, the racist south (still solidly Democratic at that time), and blacks in the north (where they could vote).
The historical narrative, of course, is that the 1936 election was a victory for Roosevelt’s ideology. But guess who wrote that narrative?