Final Public Oral Exam: Jaime Sánchez, Jr.
Becoming Democrats: Identity, Representation, and the Modern Democratic Coalition
Kevin Kruse, adviser
Michael Kazin, Georgetown University
“Becoming Democrats” explores the historical origins of identity-based stratification in partisan alignment, electoral appeals, and political coalitions in the twentieth century United States. Between 1920 and 1980, the Democratic Party successfully sought to capture the majority support of women, Black, and Spanish-speaking voters through the establishment of tailored target-group divisions tasked with cultivating new voting blocs out of these three formerly disenfranchised groups. It was through this unprecedented political organizing model that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) categorized the electorate along the lines of race and gender, incubated the development of these categories into national constituencies, and leveraged these constituencies to reshape the two-party system’s existing coalitions. Archival records from the DNC and Democratic presidential administrations document this process and shed light on the overlooked activities of the DNC Minorities, Women’s, Nationalities, and Spanish-speaking Divisions. A comparative historical lens across chapters reveals each division’s unique strategies to build political influence and broker the tense relationships between their national constituencies and the party.
In the context of a historical literature focused on the 1980 exodus of key factions from the New Deal coalition, this project counters the dominant narrative of Democratic decline by instead looking to the courtship and addition of historically disenfranchised groups. Careful examination of the strategic political calculations regarding the costs and benefits of mobilizing unprecedented numbers of women, Black, and Spanish-speaking voters shows the active process by which the DNC reinvented the party’s base. And as the two-party system of today struggles to address marginalized groups’ demands for representation, “Becoming Democrats” stands to provide vital historical background on the role of minoritized party operatives and formal party politics in the long struggle for political equality in modern America.
A copy of the dissertation will be available for review two weeks before the exam. Contact Lee Horinko for a copy of the dissertation and the Zoom meeting link and password.
All are welcome and encouraged to attend.