Why Didn't They Tell You?

Dr. FRANK MARTINS COMMENTARY ON HISTORICAL, SOCIAL & ECONOMIC ISSUES OF OUR TIME

that the Russians influenced voting in U. S. presidential elections of 1932 and 1936?

that the Russians influenced voting in U. S. presidential elections of 1932 and 1936?

The Mueller Report concluded that there was no evidence that Russia colluded with or conspired with the Trump campaign to influence the 2016 election in favor of Donald Trump or that voting was affected by Russian interference, which did happen. Indeed, Russia has been meddling in American domestic politics for almost a century, and there was a time when Russian meddling may have affected voting in two presidential elections, in 1932 and 1936.

In his classic work, The Negro and the Communist Party, Wilson Record spends most of his time trying to explain why, after three decades (1920-1950) of trying, the Communists never made any significant inroads among Negroes, i.e., Americans of African Heritage. Their attempts to recruit Americans of African heritage into the Communist Party, for the most part, were abysmal failures. Though the Communists had not been successful in recruiting Americans of African Heritage for membership in the Party, they evidently were successful in the 1930’s in putting more cracks in what had been an almost monolithic attachment of Black People to the Republican Party, the reverse of present circumstances.

It is important to understand that the Communist Party in the United States was an arm of the Communist Party in Russia, certainly from the 1920’s to the end of the Soviet Union in the 1990’s. The American Party got its marching orders from the Kremlin in Moscow. Speaking of “boring from within” as an ineffectual strategy, Wilson notes that, “No one was more aware of this than the men in the Kremlin who directed the activities of the Communist International and of the American section”.1 In short, any influences attributed to the American Communist Party during the era under consideration must ultimately be connected to Russia.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first run for President as the standard bearer for the Democratic Party was in 1932, against incumbent Herbert Hoover, when the country was in the depth of the Great Depression; he won the election by a landslide. His 1936 victory was also a landslide. Though their loyalty to the Republican Party had been diminishing since the late 1920’s, the majority of Americans of African Heritage still voted for Hoover in 1932. Nonetheless, 1932 seems to have been an important turning point.2 Thus in 1934, Arthur W. Mitchell, who had served four years in the U. S. House of Representatives as a Republican, switched party affiliation and was elected to the U. S. Congress as the “first Negro Democrat”3.

Wilson attributes this change in party affiliation partly to the activities of the Communist Party in noting that “Communists played a role in weaning Negroes away from the Republican Party in 1932 and in piling up the black vote for Roosevelt in 1936.”4, when Roosevelt received 71% of the black vote.5 This was done through putting “… their canvassers and precinct workers at the disposal of the Democratic Party machines. … By 1936 the [Communist] Party had dropped much of its criticism of Roosevelt and the New Deal, redirecting its vitriol almost exclusively towards Roosevelt’s detractors.”6 Since Roosevelt’s victory was so lopsided, it is doubtful that the black vote affected the election outcome. Nonetheless, if Wilson is right, the Russians did impact voting in American Presidential elections going back more than 80 years. Obviously, the Russians felt that the Democratic Party’s world view was more sympathetic to their agenda than that of the Republican Party.

Since 1936, a majority of the black vote in every presidential election has gone to the Democrats. Another breaking point occurred in 1964 when the Democratic nominee Lyndon Johnson received 94% of the black vote. Black Demographics concluded that it was “… the association of civil rights legislation with John F Kennedy and Lyndon Banes Johnson that solidified Black loyalty to the Democratic Party for good. JFK proposed and LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which outlawed public discrimination.  LBJs Republican opponent, Barry Goldwater, opposed it garnering Johnson 94% of the black vote that year, which was a record until 2008. Johnson later signed the 1965 Voting Rights Act.” Interestingly, though the Democrats had a supermajority in both the House and the Senate, it was the Republican minority that carried the day in approving the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

In 1964, Democrats held 253 of the 431 seats (four seats were evidently vacant) in the House of Representatives and 67 of the 100 seats in the Senate. In other words, the Democrats had enough votes to pass any legislation without any Republican support and had enough votes to override a presidential veto. However, in the voting for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, only 153 Democrats (60% of all Democrats) voted for the bill which fell short of the 216 votes needed to pass the legislation. Republicans made up the difference with 136 (76% of all Republican in the House) votes for the legislation. In the Senate 46 Democrats voted for the legislation, thus falling short of the 51 needed. With 27 of the 33 Republicans voting for the bill, the required number of votes was assured. However, given Barry Goldwater’s opposition to the legislation, the overwhelming Republican support for the civil rights legislation in both the House and the Senate was not enough to fend off the Democratic landslide among black voters.7

In 2004 when George W. Bush ran for re-election, fifteen percent (15%) of Americans of African Heritage identified as Republicans, the highest since 1960. Eleven percent (11%) identified as independent, and eleven percent (11%) voted for George W. Bush in 2004. By 2016, only three percent (3%) identified as Republicans while 23% identified as Independent. Donald Trump received 8% of the black vote in 2016.8 In short, the black vote is not as monolithic as we may assume it is. It will be interesting to see how much of the black vote goes to Donald Trump in 2020.

Featured Image of Communist Party protest of 1930’s accessed at https://www.google.com/search?q=great+depression&rlz=1C1CHBF_enUS894US894&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiy5eO-1IHrAhUSca0KHXxLAnoQ_AUoAnoECBwQBA&biw=1920&bih=871

  1. Record, Wilson (1951). The Negro and the Communist Party. Atheneum: New York, p. 52.
  1. U. S. House of Representatives, “Party Realignment and The New Deal”. Accessed at https://history.house.gov/Exhibitions-and-Publications/BAIC/Historical-Essays/Keeping-the-Faith/Party-Realignment–New-Deal/
  2. Franklin, John Hope (1967). From slavery to freedom: A history of Negro Americans, 3rd edition. New York: Alfred A Knopf, p. 528.
  3. Wilson, p. 311
  4. Black Demographics. Accessed at https://blackdemographics.com/culture/black-politics/
  5. Wilson, p. 131
  6. Information on voting accessed at https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/88-1964/h182
  7. Black Demographics.

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