1928

THEO LIPPMAN Jr.

October 12, 1992|By Theo Lippman Jr.

This is the 52nd presidential election.

The 36th saw a dramatic departure from traditions. After 125 years of presidential nominees who were Protestants if religious at all, Democrats nominated a Roman Catholic, Al Smith, the governor of New York. He was also the first presidential nominee without a farm background.

Republicans chose the moderate Secretary of Commerce, Herbert Hoover. Hoover was the presidential choice of some in his party in 1920. He won international acclaim as head of relief efforts for war victims in Europe during World War I.

The issues were Smith's religion and his opposition to Prohibition (and his New York accent, as radio became an instrument of politics.) The Democratic Party in the 1920s was an ineffectual and unlikely coalition of Southern conservatives and urban liberals.

A ''wet'' Catholic nominee resulted in the Democrats carrying the least number of states since Reconstruction. Hoover won 42 of the 48 states, including five in the old Confederacy. But in losing, Smith carried all the big, growing urban areas, which, with the few Southern states he won, forecast the alliance that would make his party dominant in presidential politics in the near future.

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