Party Machines and Immigration Term Paper

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Party Machines and Immigrants

For more than a century, party machines dominated the political process in many parts of the United States where William "Boss" Tweed and his Tammany Hall henchmen and their ilk controlled the outcomes of elections in many major American cities by manipulating the immigrant vote. Although these political figures were eventually displaced by other politicians, they left a legacy of corruption, back-scratching and double-dealings that persists to this day. To determine the impact of these events on modern American politics, this paper provides a discussion concerning some of the main actors involved in party machines and immigration in the United States during the 20th century, including Frank Hague, William "Boss" Tweed, Abraham Reuf, George Cox, Richard Daley and Vito Lopez. A summary of the research and important findings concerning party machines and their implications for immigrants are provided in the conclusion.

Review and Discussion

Frank Hague -- Jersey City

According to many biographers, Frank Hague was a true American rags-to-illegal riches story. For instance, Luthins and Nevins (1954) argue that, "Few party chieftains have ever held such an anaconda-like grip on an American municipality as did this slum boy who rose to public power and financial affluence and was variously dubbed the 'Sphinx of Jersey City,' the 'City Hall,'" and 'The Boss'" (p. 128). Beginning with his ascension to office in 1913, Hague wheeled- and-dealed his way to the top of the political machine and used many of the same tactics as other big city bosses to remain in power. For example, Luthins and Nevins (1954) report that Hague "had dispensed bread in the form of jobs, and circuses in the form of vaudeville acts and parades. He had made himself something of a perennial mayor, controlling the city that became synonymous with his name, and dictating Democratic destinies throughout the state of New Jersey" (1954, p. 150). The New York Times reported a series of state legislative investigations into Hague's finances on January 8, March 10, and May 19, 1929 (Luthins &, 1954). As he entered his semi-retirement, Luthins and Nevins (1954) suggest that, "There can never be peace in Jersey City while Frank Hague remains alive. There are too many people who worship him and too many others who blame him for all the city's ills" (p. 151).

William Tweed -- NYC

It is not hard to stay in office when you control the votes, and this was certainly the situation with William Tweed. The archetypical big city boss, William "Boss" Tweed was "the boss of Tammany Hall (the society controlling all the activities and businesses of the Democratic Party), who tries to get hold of the area in order to get votes from the Irish immigrants who are constantly arriving from Europe" (Saetre & Patrizia, 2010, p. 211). From a strictly pragmatic perspective, Tweed was correct in his assessment of how the voting system in early 20th century America worked and exploited every weakness to his advantage (Judd & Swanstrom, 2012). For instance, according to Summers (2011), "Tammany boss William Tweed once explained that the voters didn't make the result -- the counters made the result" (p. 484). In fact, Kazin and Edwards (2010) emphasize that, "Bosses like William Tweed in New York hired fighters to serve as ballot enforcers on Election Day" (p. 773). In sum, Tweed consistently manipulated the immigrant population to his advantage through legal, illegal and extralegal means, but he made it clear that he was prepared to break the law to ensure the semblance of the law remained intact (Kazin & Edwards, 2010).

Abraham Reuf -- San Francisco

Even for the era, Abraham Reuf was notable as being one of the most corrupt politicians in the country (Howe, 1915). In this regard, Howe advises that, "Since the first years of the century a corrupt Mayor, a corrupt Board of Supervisors, creatures of the supremely corrupt boss, Abraham Reuf, had controlled [San Fracisco]" (p. 159). In fact, it was almost as if Reuf had been reading the "Tammany Hall Guide to Corruption" and taking lessons from Boss Tweed on how to be the most corrupt politician possible. For instance, Howe points out that Reuf and his cohorts had "traded in franchises, licenses, permits, and special privileges as perhaps a political ring never traded before. More, they had organized crime and vice, given it protection, entered into partnership with it" (p. 159). Indeed, given the manner in which Reuf and his colleagues had infiltrated the legitimate city government, it is reasonable to suggest that they might have gotten away with it for a lot longer if they had not become too greedy. Greed, though, spelled the downfall for Reuf and his associates. According to Howe, "The climax came when they accepted a bribe of $200,000 for a 'free' trolley franchise worth millions of dollars to the city had the city sold it fairly" (p. 159). Certainly, $200,000 in fin de siecle-era money was an enormous sum, and this was the final straw that broke their collective backs. In this regard, Howe concludes that, "A group of reformers, led first by the San Francisco Bulletin and then by Francis J. Heney, had exposed this condition of affairs, had indicted the little bosses and bribe takers -- to the universal applause of the community -- and had reached out for the big bribe givers -- to the universal horror of the upper classes" (Howe, p. 159).

George Cox -- Cincinnati.

Placed in the same ranks as Durham of Philadelphia, Richard Croker of Tammany Hall, Abe Ruef of San Francisco, and Martin Lomasney of Boston's Ninth Ward, Miraldi reports that George Cox of Cincinnati was one of the men who "ran the big city machines" (p. 97). In reality, though, Cox was well situated to take advantage of the political situation in Ohio at the time which Spragens (1988) describes as a veritable schoolhouse for learning "the intricacies and pitfalls of forcing and scuttling legislation, manipulating conventions, rigging elections, securing campaign contributions from large and small corporations, disposing of public funds, and letting utility franchises, road contracts, permits, licenses, and jobs" (p. 221).

Richard Daley -- Chicago

Well known throughout the country for the Chicago police's uber-violent response to demonstrations outside the Democratic National Convention in 1968, Mayor Richard Daley or his son controlled the City of Chicago for 35 of the 48 years since 1955 (Will, 2003). Like many of big city bosses, opinions about Daley generally line up on two sides, with little gray area in the middle. For instance, even his detractors concede that notwithstanding his political machinations, Mayor Daley was good at what he did. In this regard, according to Miraldi (2000), Richard J. Daley of Chicago "was the last of big boss breed, whom Adlai Stevenson III, running as a reformer for the Senate, labeled a 'feudal chief.' Later, Stevenson denied ever calling Daley a bad feudal chief" (p. 97).

Vito Lopez -- Brooklyn

In sharp contrast to Boss Tweed or Abe Ruef, Vito Lopez is a minor player on the political stage, but the legacy left by these big city bosses still dictates how things really get done at the precinct level. In this regard, Hamilton (2012) reports that, "In the old days, county leaders were in fact bosses. That is: they really held huge amount of power in terms of determining party nominees and allocating party resources" (para 1). Although this has changed in substantive ways in recent years, the harsh realities facing the voters in New York is that in some cases, the more things change, the more they stay the same. For instance, Hamilton notes that, "While they might not have as many jobs or apartments to hand out, county leaders like Vito Lopez still derive much of their power from their control over…[continue]

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