[Speaking of Books] The Revolution of ’28: Al Smith, American Progressivism, and the Coming of the New Deal, a conversation with Robert Chiles
The Revolution of ’28 explores the career of New York governor and 1928 Democratic presidential nominee Alfred E. Smith. Robert Chiles peers into Smith’s work and uncovers a distinctive strain of American progressivism that resonated among urban, ethnic, working-class Americans in the early twentieth century. The book charts the rise of that idiomatic progressivism during Smith’s early years as a state legislator through his time as governor of the Empire State in the 1920s, before proceeding to a revisionist narrative of the 1928 presidential campaign, exploring the ways in which Smith’s gubernatorial progressivism was presented to a national audience. As Chiles points out, new-stock voters responded enthusiastically to Smith's candidacy on both economic and cultural levels.
Chiles offers a historical argument that describes the impact of this coalition on the new liberal formation that was to come with Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, demonstrating the broad practical consequences of Smith’s political career. In particular, Chiles notes how Smith’s progressive agenda became Democratic partisan dogma and a rallying point for policy formation and electoral success at the state and national levels. Chiles sets the record straight in The Revolution of ’28 by paying close attention to how Smith identified and activated his emergent coalition and put it to use in his campaign of 1928, before quickly losing control over it after his failed presidential bid.