The Big Vote Gender Consumer Culture and the Politics of

The Big Vote Gender Consumer Culture and the Politics of Exclusion 1890s 1920s Reconfiguring American Political History Low voter turnout is a serious problem in American politics today but it is not a new one Its roots lay in the 1920s when for the first time in nearly a century a majority of eligible Americans did not bother to cast ballots in a presidential election Stunned by this civic failure so soon after a world war to make the world safe for democracy reforming women and business men launched massive campaigns to Get Out the Vote By 1928 they had enlisted the enthusiastic support of than a thousand groups in Forty six statesIn The Big Vote historian Liette Gidlow shows that the Get Out the Vote campaigns—overlooked by historians until now—were in fact part of an important transformation of political culture in the early twentieth century Weakened political parties ascendant consumer culture labor unrest Jim Crow widespread anti immigration sentiment and the new woman suffrage all raised serious uestions about the meanings of good citizenship Gidlow recasts our understandings of the significance of the woman suffrage amendment and shows that it was important not only because it enfranchised women but because it also ushered in a new era of near universal suffrage Faced with the apparent euality of citizens before the ballot box middle class and elite whites in the Get Out the Vote campaigns and elsewhere advanced a searing critiue of the ways that workers ethnics and sometimes women behaved as citizens Through techniues ranging from civic education to modern advertising they worked in the realm of culture to undo the euality that constitutional amendments had seemed to achieve Through their efforts by the late 1920s civic had become practically synonymous with middle class and whiteRichly documented with primary sources from political parties and civic groups popular and ethnic periodicals and electoral returns The Big Vote looks closely at the national Get Out the Vote campaigns and at the internal dynamics of campaigns in the case study cities of New York New York Grand Rapids Michigan and Birmingham Alabama In the end the Get Out the Vote campaigns shed light not only on the problem of voter turnout in the 1920s but on some of the problems that hamper the practice of full democracy even today

10 thoughts on “The Big Vote Gender Consumer Culture and the Politics of Exclusion 1890s 1920s Reconfiguring American Political History

  1. Margaret Sankey Margaret Sankey says:

    Disturbed by the low voter turnout in 1920 and energized by the enfranchisement of women civic organization undertook a massive Get Out The Vote movement in the 1920s using innovative campaigns with modern advertising radio cars newsreels and other mediaand it failed well depending on your motivations The campaign as studied by Gidlow was in the hands of upper middle class white elites in their communities and the resulting message was in English privileged experienced citizenship linked citizenship to American historical events only WASPS would have been in put voter registration tables in department stores and campaigned for decent politicians and independent thinking to break corruption and machine politics While the League of Women Voters genuinely saw itself as non partisan the National Association of Manufacturers positioned these same calls against LaFollett and ethnic voters When GOTV materials appeared in union newsletters or ethnic neighborhood the message was still one that failed to resonate with or caused resentment by potential voters who interpreted them as being told that it wasn't their vote being mobilized and it resounded cruelly in the Jim Crow south as none of the campaigns address poll taxes or voting discrimination This is a fascinating study of something that looked straightforward and beneficial but on closer examination is a lot politically complicated and meaningful

  2. Kendra Kendra says:

    The premise is good how is it that at the very moment that the electorate was expanded the most constitutionally that actual voting in Presidential elections was undermined? And what did people do about it?Gidlow mines some good sources LOWV records American Legion records and the magazine Collier's but generally pounds out the argument with these same sources in every chapter without much payoffAn article would have sufficed

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *