POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica

Who Will Be The Next...?

by David Trumbull

October 9, 2009

According to various sources, in the 1930s, Italian Americans—as did many recent immigrant groups—voted heavily Democratic, but since the 1960s, Americans of Italian heritage have split about evenly among Democrats, Republicans, and independents. In Massachusetts many Italian immigrants got involved in Republican politcs early on, even while the national trend was to support the Democrats. It is often said that this was due to the domination of the Massachusetts Democratic Party by the Irish who were not entirely welcoming to other immigrant groups. There may have been some truth to that, but I have not seen the proof. It certainly does appear, if you look at Republican slates of candidates in the first half of the twentieth century, that the GOP actively sought to augment its declining White Anglo-Saxon Protestant base with names that would appeal to “ethnic voters.” Personally, I prefer to believe that Italian immigrants, once they became American citizens, looked favorably on the Republican Party because they found in Republicanism confirmation of and support for their particular American experience.

There are many stereotypes of the Italians who came to America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Many of the stereotypes are ugly and untrue. But other stereotypes capture the truth of the beautiful culture that the sons and daughters of Italy brought here first as a foreign influence but which later became part of our common American heritage. Certainly Italian cooking, art, fashion, and sporting prowess—just to name a few aspects of Italian culture—were grand contributions to American culture that we all enjoy. But I’m writing about politics and the stereotype I have in mind is that of the Italian immigrant who, almost as soon as he arrived, set up some small business—fruit stand, slush stand, shoe repair shop, whatever—which through hard work he grew into a successful firm. I like to believe it was that entrepreneurial spirit that made the Republican Party attractive.

In Massachusetts those Italian-Americans who embraced the Republican Party left us a tradition of distinguished public service in elected office. Of the three Italian-Americans to serve as Governor of Massachusetts, two were Republicans. John A. Volpe, son of Italian immigrants was twice elected Governor in the 1960s. A. Paul Cellucci, in a political career that that included State Representative, State Senator, Lieutenant Governor and Governor held elected office in the Commonwealth from 1977 into 2001. Joseph D. Malone, two-term Treasurer of the Commonwealth in the 1990s, is the son of Italian immigrants.

Who will be the next Italian-American to set up and get elected as Republican? Perhaps some Post-Gazette reader? Next year is election year. The Massachusetts Republican Party wants to hear from YOU!

[David Trumbull is the chairman of the Boston Ward Three Republican Committee. Boston's Ward Three includes the North End, West End, part of Beacon Hill, downtown, waterfront, Chinatown, and part of the South End.]