After the wartime presidency of Democrat Woodrow Wilson in World War I, there were significant splits within the Democratic Party over cultural issues, such as Prohibition and the Ku Klux Klan. These disagreements within the party guaranteed Republican presidential victories throughout the 1920s. By the end of the decade, the Democratic Party emerged as a loyal opponent of Prohibition and strong supporter of resource conservation.
Democratic Party Split
During the 1920s, the Democrats experienced a split between the progressive Wilsonians and the various Democratic Party machines in several important states. The progressive Wilsonians, such as William Gibbs McAdoo, were idealistic and believed it was important to improve society through social movements and government action. The party machines, on the other hand, were less interested in ambitious social crusades and more concerned with responding in practical fashion to the needs of immigrants and other minority groups.
Post-War Tax Cuts
The Democratic Party of the 1920s advocated a revision of the tax code that would decrease the tax burden on Americans to pre-WWI levels. At its 1920 National Convention, the Democratic Party declared that the War Revenues Acts should be revised so that the wealth of the country would no longer be “diverted to wasteful or non-productive expenditure.” The Democrats called out the Republicans for their lack of action in reforming the tax code prior to 1920.
The Democratic Party had been split for many years on the issue of Prohibition, but its antiprohibitionist forces prevailed by the end of the 1920s. With Republicans largely promoting Prohibition across the nation, the Democrats provided a powerful voice of opposition. In 1928, presidential candidate Alfred Smith advocated fundamental changes to Prohibition laws throughout the country. According to Thomas Pegram, writing in Alcohol and Temperance in Modern History: A Global Encyclopedia, the Democrats were able to dedicate themselves to antiprohibition by the election of 1932 owing to the strength of the repeal movement and the weak enforcement of the laws by President Herbert Hoover's administration.
In 1924, the Democratic Party called for a government-run conservation program. They favored strict public control and conservation of the nation’s natural resources in an effort to preserve them for the interests of American citizens. This program included a national policy of reforestation and the protection of iron, coal, oil and timber resources.
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