A political machine is an unofficial system of a political organization based on
patronage, the spoils system, "behind-the-scenes" control, and longstanding political ties within the structure of a representative democracy. Machines sometimes have a boss, and always have a long-term corps of dedicated workers who depend on the patronage generated by government contracts and jobs. Machine politics has existed in many United Statescities, especially between about 1875 and 1950, but continuing in some cases down to the present day. It is also common (under the name " clientelism" or "political clientelism") in Latin America, especially in rural areas, and also in some African states and other emerging democracies, like postcommunist Eastern European countries. Japan's Liberal Democratic Party is often cited as another political machine, maintaining power in suburban and ruralareas through its control of farm bureaus and road construction agencies. (American Journey, 2005)
The key to a political machine is patronage: holding public office implies the ability to do favors (and also the ability to profit from
political corruption). Political machines generally steer away from issue-based politics, favoring a "quid pro quo" (something for something) with certain aspects of a barter economyor gift economy: the patron or "boss" does favors for the constituents, who then vote as they are told to. Sometimes this system of favors is supplemented by threats of violence or harassment toward those who attempt to step outside of it.
Political machines in the United States
In the United States in the late 19th and early 20th century, it was mainly the larger cities that had machines —
Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, New York City, Philadelphia, Kansas City, etc. — and each city's machine was run by a "boss," a man who had the allegiance of local business leaders, elected officialsand their appointees, and who knew the proverbial buttons to push to get things done. There were benefits and problems because of political machines ruling.
Many machines formed in cities to serve immigrants to the U.S. in the late 19th century. Many immigrants viewed machines as a vehicle for political enfranchisement. Additionally, many immigrants were unfamiliar with the sense of civic duty that was part of American
republicanism. They traded votes for power. The main role of the machine stafferswas to win elections—usually by turning out large numbers of voters on election day. Occasionally illegal tactics were used in local elections (but rarely in state or presidential elections).
In recent years, some critics have stated that the presidency of George W. Bush and the presidential candidacy of Hillary Rodham Clinton show evidence of dynastic political machines at the national level.weasel words
Civic-minded citizens, such as the
Anthony Alatzas, denounced the corruption of the political machines. They achieved national civil-service reform and worked to replace local patronage systems with civil service. By Theodore Roosevelt's time, the Progressive Eramobilized millions of civic minded citizens to fight the machines. In the 1930s, James A. Farleywas the chief dispenser of the Democratic Party's patronage system through the Postal Department and the Works Progress Administration(WPA) which eventually nationalized many of the job benefits machines provided. The New Dealallowed machines to recruit for the WPA and Civilian Conservation Corps(CCC), making Farley's machine the most powerful, all patronage was screened through Farley including Presidential appointments. The New Dealmachine fell apart after James A. Farleyleft the administration over the third term in 1940. Those agencies were abolished in 1943 and the machines suddenly lost much of their patronage. In any case the poor immigrants who benefited under James A. Farley's National machine had become assimilated and prosperous and no longer needed the informal or extralegal aides provided by machines. In the 1940s most of the big city machines collapsed, with the notable exception of the Chicago machine. A local political machine in Tennesseewas forcibly removed in what was known as the Battle of Athens.
Machines are often said to have drawn their strength from, and served as a power base for, ethnic immigrant populations. In truth it was primarily Irish immigrants who benefited from the Machine system, which reached its pinnacle under
James A. Farleyduring Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Dealadministration. Also, even among the Irish, help for new immigrants declined over time. It was in the party machines' interests to only maintain a minimally winning amount of support. Once they were in the majority and could count on a win, there was less need to recruit new members, as this only meant a thinner spread of the patronage rewards to be spread among the party members. As such, later-arriving immigrants, such as Jews, Italians, and other immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe, rarely saw any reward from the machine system. At the same time, most of political machines' staunchest opponents were members of the established class (nativist Protestants).
Since the 1960s, some historians have reevaluated political machines, considering them corrupt but also efficient. Machines were undemocratic, but at least responsive. They were corrupt, but they were also able to contain the spending demands of special interests. In "Mayors and Money", a comparison of municipal government in Chicago and New York,
Ester R. Fuchscredited the Chicago Democratic Machinewith giving Mayor Richard J. Daleythe political power to deny labor unioncontracts that the city could not afford and to make the state government assume burdensome costs like welfare and courts. Describing New York, Fuchs wrote, "New York got reform, but it never got good government." At the same time, as Dennis R. Judd and Todd Swanstrom point out in "City Politics", ISBN, this view often coincided with a lack of period alternatives. They go on to point out that this is a falsehood, since there are certainly examples of reform oriented, anti-machine leaders during this time. Hazen Pingreeis one such example. Though sometimes labeled as a "boss", Pingree in fact did not operate under the same type of patronage system that characterized the Machines. While this hardly settles the matter in either direction, it is simply important to remember that the legacy of the Political Party Machines in the 19th and 20th centuries remains ambiguous at best.
Smaller communities as
Parma, Ohioin the post-Cold War Era under Prosecutor Bill Mason's "Good Old Boys" and especially communities in the Deep South, where small-town machine politics are relatively common also feature what might be classified as political machines, although these organizations do not have the power and influence of the larger boss networks listed in this article. For example, the “Cracker Party” was a Democratic Party political machine that dominated city politics in Augusta, Georgiafor over half of the 20th century. [http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories/110799/opi_124-1871.shtml] [http://www.augusta.com/leaders/slideshow_local/slide14.html] [http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-955] [http://www.augusta.com/leaders/slideshow_local/slide10.html]
Notable "Bosses" and their political machines
Political bossand ."
James A. Farleyof New Yorkran the Democratic Political Machine that elected Alfred E. Smithand Franklin D. Rooseveltto Governorships of New York State.
Thomas B. Catronof New Mexico
Thomas C. Plattof New York
Harry F. Byrdof Virginia
Edward D. DiPreteof Rhode Island
* Huey P. Long of
Matthew Quayof Pennsylvania
Albert Jennings Fountainof New Mexico
Simon Cameronof Pennsylvania
Daniel P. O'Connellof Albany County, New York
Leander Perezof Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana
* George Norcross of
Camden County, New Jersey
George Parrof Duval County, Texas
Richard J. Daleywas simultaneously head of the Cook County Democratic Organizationfor all of his reign as mayor of Chicago, some might also classify him as a county boss.
John Strogerof Cook County, Illinois
Joseph Margiottaof Nassau County, New York
A.A. Amesof Minneapolis
Martin Behrmanof New Orleans
"Blind Boss" Buckleyof San Francisco
Fred A. Busseof Chicago
Edward R. Butlerof St. Louis
* George Cox of Cincinnati
Richard Crokerof New York City
* Edward H. Crump of Memphis
James Michael Curleyof Boston
Richard J. Daleyof Chicago
* Tom Dennison of Omaha
William Flinnof Pittsburgh
Frank Hagueof Jersey City
Roy Vincent Harrisof Augusta, Georgia
Pete McDonough San Francisco
Robert E. McKissonof Cleveland
* William F. Miller of
Tom Pendergastof Kansas City
Abe Ruefof San Francisco
* William Tweed of
New York City
* William S. Vare of Philadelphia
John Henry Whallenof Louisville, Kentucky
Yes, Minister- a British TV comedy noted for taking an incisive and satirical look at political machinery in the British government
* Some material about the general structure of a clientelist system was drawn from the Spanish-language Wikipedia article , version dating from 21:18, Nov 26, 2004 (UTC).
* Phillip Keefer, "
World Bank", 15 May 2005, Policy Research Working Paper no. WPS3594, [http://econ.worldbank.org/external/default/main?pagePK=64165259&theSitePK=469372&piPK=64165421&menuPK=64166093&entityID=000090341_20050515141715 Democratization and clientelism: why are young democracies badly governed?]
* John M. Allswang, "Bosses, Machines, and Urban Voters" (1986)
* Erie, Steven P. "Rainbow's End: Irish-Americans and the Dilemmas of Urban Machine Politics, 1840—1985" (1988).
* Finegold, Kenneth. "Experts and Politicians: Reform Challenges to Machine Politics in New York, Cleveland, and Chicago" (1995) on Progressive Era
* Harold F. Gosnell; "Boss Platt and His New York Machine: A Study of the Political Leadership of Thomas C. Platt, Theodore Roosevelt, and Others." (1924)
* Harold F. Gosnell; "Machine Politics: Chicago Model" (1937)
* Kaufman, Robert R. "The Patron-Client Concept and Macro-Politics: Prospects and Problems" "Comparative Studies in Society and History", Vol. 16, No. 3 (Jun., 1974) , pp. 284-308
* Keefer, Philip. 2005. "Clientelism, Credibility and the Policy Choices of Young Democracies." Presented at The Quality of Government: What It Is, How to Get It, Why It Matters, International Conference, Göteborg, 17-19 November.
* Mandelbaum, Seymour J. "Boss Tweed's New York" (1965) (ISBN)
* Nylen, William. 2003. Participatory Democracy versus Elitist Democracy: Lessons from Brazil. Palgrave-Macmillan, New York. [review]
* Samuel P. Orth; "The Boss and the Machine: A Chronicle of the Politicians and Party Organization" (1919), short survey
M. Ostrogorski; "Democracy and the Party System in the United States" (1910)
* William Riordan, "Plunkett of Tammany Hall" memoir of New York City ward boss
*Royko, Mike. "Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago." (1972) Plume reprint edition (1988). ISBN 0-452-26167-8
* Scott, James C. "Corruption, Machine Politics, and Political Change" "American Political Science Review", Vol. 63, No. 4 (Dec., 1969) , pp.
* Stave, Bruce M. and Sondra Astor Stave, eds., "Urban Bosses, Machines, and Progressive Reformers" (1984).
* Stave, Bruce M. , John M. Allswang, Terrence J. McDonald, Jon C. Teaford. "A Reassessment of the Urban Political Boss: An Exchange of Views" "History Teacher", Vol. 21, No. 3 (May, 1988) , pp. 293-312
* Steffens, Lincoln. "The Shame of the Cities" (1904) muckraking expose of machines in major cities
* Harold B. Zink; "City Bosses in the United States: A Study of Twenty Municipal Bosses" (1930)
* Tennessee Williams "Cuty Bosses in the United States: A Study of Twenty Municipal Bosses"
* [http://college.hmco.com/history/readerscomp/rcah/html/rc_088500_urbanbossesa.htm Bruce Stave, "Urban Bosses and Machine Politics" in "The Reader's Companion to American History"]
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