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Prohibition, the Constitution, and States' Rights$
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Sean Beienburg

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226631943

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226632278.001.0001

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Taking Alcohol to the People of the States (1925–28)

Taking Alcohol to the People of the States (1925–28)

(p.149) Chapter Eight Taking Alcohol to the People of the States (1925–28)
Prohibition, the Constitution, and States' Rights

Sean Beienburg

University of Chicago Press

With the Anti-Saloon League having demonstrated its strength in leveraging both electoral and intellectual support for prohibition enforcement by elected officials, the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment (AAPA), a states’ rights committed anti-prohibition group, turned toward popular referenda proposing repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment, which it carefully justified on almost exclusively federalist grounds. These referenda proved wildly successful, but still many elected officials, including opponents of prohibition such as Wisconsin’s Fred Zimmerman, enraged constituents by blocking efforts to liberalize prohibition between the presidential elections. With little separating the two 1928 presidential candidates, both of whom were arguably constitutionally conservative and politically progressive, the election quickly became a de facto referendum on prohibition. Even though he pledged to faithfully enforce the Constitution until amended, Democratic nominee Al Smith drew the support of bipartisan prohibition opponents and, though losing much of the historically Democratic South, made inroads in the anti-prohibitionist Northeast. By way of contrast, candidate Herbert Hoover, with the assistance of powerful states’ rights progressive Senator William Borah, pledged vigorous enforcement of the Constitution and its so-called “noble experiment,” branding the Republican Party as the clearly prohibitionist party in a way it never was under Calvin Coolidge.

Keywords:   AAPA, Anti Saloon League, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Al Smith, William Borah

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