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political machine | Definition, History, & Facts
Political machine, in U.S. politics, a party organization, headed by a single boss or small autocratic group, that commands enough votes to maintain political and administrative control of a city, county, or state.
Thomas Nast cartoon picturing a Tammany Hall Tiger hampered by Grover Cleveland’s uncompromising honesty and independence from political bosses.Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
The rapid growth of American cities in the 19th century, a result of both immigration and migration from rural areas, created huge problems for city governments, which were often poorly structured and unable to provide services. In those conditions, political machines—such as Tammany Hall, run by boss William Magear Tweed (1823–73) in New York City—were able to build a loyal voter following, especially among immigrant groups, by performing such favours as providing jobs or housing.
William Magear TweedWilliam Magear Tweed.Hoxie Collection/Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (Digital File Number: cph 3a23550)
Political machines are characterized by a disciplined and hierarchical organization, reaching down to neighbourhood and block organizers, that enables the machine to respond to the problems of individual neighbourhoods, or even families, in exchange for loyalty at the polls. The term refers to their ability to elect candidates or enact measures with mechanical efficiency and predictability.
Although the primary goal of a political machine is keeping itself in power rather than providing good government, machines have been responsible for restructuring city governments to centralize authority, improving facilities and services, helping to assimilate immigrant groups, and encouraging the growth of business and industry. Supporters of political machines say that they “work” and that consolidating power in the hands of a boss, like Mayor Richard J. Daley (1902–76) of Chicago, guarantees city governments the power and authority that they need to cope with urban problems effectively. However, because political machines in such cities as Boston, Philadelphia, New York, Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Kansas City have also been responsible for many abuses of power, the term carries a pejorative sense.
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Organizers who “deliver” the votes are often rewarded with patronage jobs. However, patronage can result in poorer service to the citizens because appointees may be neither qualified for their jobs nor interested in performing them. Control of both elective and appointed posts also gives a machine control of government salaries and revenues, which can be used to enrich the party at the public’s expense. For example, the machine may accept donations or kickbacks from businesses in return for such favours as tax or zoning concessions or the award of lucrative public-works contracts. In some cities, machine business dealings have included accepting money from organized-crime syndicates in exchange for protection from legal interference.
In cities whose neighbourhoods are divided along ethnic or racial lines, machine patronage may aggravate hostilities by awarding most jobs and services to those people of the same background as the city’s power elite. In practice, this made machine politics the last defense of white neighbourhoods against growing black populations, while black politicians who anticipated power viewed their constituents as merely the latest in a series of ethnic or racial groups that had benefited from the machine.
Since the 19th-century heyday of machine politics, civil service reforms limiting the number of patronage jobs, the institution of direct primaries rather than party nomination of candidates, the municipal operation of public utilities, and judicial review by state and federal courts have all reduced the power of political machines. The steady exodus of city residents to the suburbs since World War II and a more mobile population with fewer ties to particular neighbourhoods have also weakened the social base that once made political machines synonymous with city government.
Political machine – Wikipedia – Many machines formed in cities to serve immigrants to the U.S. in the late 19th century who viewed machines as a vehicle for political enfranchisement. Machine workers helped win elections by turning out large numbers of voters on election day. It was in the machine's interests to only maintain a minimally winning amount of support.Tom Pendergast ran his political machine in Kansas City Missouri from this hotel. Wikipedia. The Pendergast Machine in Kansas City. Thomas Pendergast used his position as the Chairman of the Jackson County Missouri Democratic Party to control Kansas City and Jackson County from the mid-1920s through 1939, along the way helping a failed clothing merchant named Harry Truman enter politics.The Political Machine of Frank Hague of Jersey City, New Jersey Frank Hague came from a squalid Irish-immigrant slum area of Jersey City called the Horseshoe. The Irish had come to the area as workers for building the railroad lines that linked New York City with the rest of the country and settled there after the railroads were completed.
Shedding New Light on the 10 Most Corrupt Political – Most of the US cities were run by political machines in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century (Tuckel & Maisel 99). A political machine is an organization controlled by a powerful boss or group of people who enjoy the support of a section of the population (Tuckel & Maisel 100-101).What role did political machines serve in cities? Role of Political Machines in Cities A political machine is a group of people who maintain control of political decisions and elections within a…What role did political machines serve in cities? ensuring public harmony and safety/ educating and serving the public good/ providing honest voting and experienced public servants/ alleviating racism and ethnic prejudice/ satisfying voter needs and making the bosses wealthy. 2.
Political Bosses and Machines in The U.s. – Political Machines were orgainizations that provided social services and jobs in exchange foir votes. The machines were run by a boss who in turn had precinct captains, ward captains and district captains underneath him. All of them made sure that the poor has what they needed. They also made sure the poor voted… for them!What role did Political Machines play in the growth of cities? these well organized parties dominated city governments in the US. the bosses dictated party positions on city ordinances and made deals w/business leaders. they also controlled the district leaders, city officials, and council members who kept the machine running smoothly.Politicians no longer ran in small cities because of urbanization they were running in large cities. They started building political organizations called machines in the early 1900's to guarantee their success in municipal elections. Machines provided dreadful neighborhoods with new roads and systems and helped immigrants find jobs.