political machines essay

William “Boss” Tweed and Political Machines

political machines essay

Written by: Bill of Rights Institute

By the end of this section, you will:.

  • Explain the similarities and differences between the political parties during the Gilded Age

Suggested Sequencing

Use this Narrative with the Were Urban Bosses Essential Service Providers or Corrupt Politicians? Point-Counterpoint and the Cartoon Analysis: Thomas Nast Takes on “Boss Tweed”, 1871 Primary Source to give a full picture of political machines and their relationship with immigrants.

New York was a teeming place after the Civil War. The city’s unpaved streets were strewn with trash thrown from windows and horse manure from animals pulling carriages. Black smoke clogged the air, wafted from the burning coal and wood that heated homes and powered factories. Diseases like cholera and tuberculosis thrived in the unhealthy environment. More than one million people were crowded into the city; many in dilapidated tenements. Poverty, illiteracy, crime, and vice were rampant problems for the poor, and for the Irish and German immigrants who made up almost half the population. The city government offered a very few basic services to alleviate the suffering, and churches and private charities were often overwhelmed by the need. One politician discovered how to provide these services and get something in return.

William Magear “Boss” Tweed was the son of a furniture maker. From an early age, Tweed discovered he had a knack for politics, with his imposing figure and charisma. He soon began serving in local New York City political offices and was elected alderman for the Seventh Ward, joining the so-called 40 thieves who represented the city wards. He served a frustrating term in Congress during the sectional tensions of the 1850s and then happily returned to local politics, where he believed the action was. He quickly became one of the leading politicians in New York City, and one of the most corrupt.

Photograph of William Tweed.

William Tweed, the “boss” of Tammany Hall, played a major role in New York City politics during the mid-1800s.

By the late 1850s, Tweed had ascended through a variety of local offices, including volunteer firefighter, school commissioner, member of the county board of supervisors, and street commissioner. He learned to make political allies and friends and became a rising star. His friends selected him to head the city’s political machine, which was representative of others in major American cities in which a political party and a boss ran a major city. In New York City, Tammany Hall was the organization that controlled the Democratic Party and most of the votes.

One of Tweed’s first acts was to restore order after the New York City draft riots in 1863, when many Irishmen protested the draft while wealthier men paid $300 to hire substitutes to fight in the war. Tweed engineered a deal in which some family men (rather than just the rich) received exemptions and even a loan from Tammany Hall to pay a substitute. He had won a great deal of local autonomy and control, which the federal government had to accept. In 1870, the state legislature granted New York City a new charter that gave local officials, rather than those in the state capital in Albany, power over local political offices and appointments. It was called the “Tweed Charter” because Tweed so desperately wanted that control that he paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes for it.

The corrupt “Tweed Ring” was raking in millions of dollars from graft and skimming off the top. Tweed doled out thousands of jobs and lucrative contracts as patronage, and he expected favors, bribes, and kickbacks in return. Some of that money was distributed to judges for favorable rulings. Massive building projects such as new hospitals, elaborate museums, marble courthouses, paved roads, and the Brooklyn Bridge had millions of dollars of padded costs added that went straight to Boss Tweed and his cronies. Indeed, the county courthouse was originally budgeted for $250,000 but eventually cost more than $13 million and was not even completed. The Tweed ring pocketed most of the money. The ring also gobbled up massive amounts of real estate, owned the printing company that contracted for official city business such as ballots, and received large payoffs from railroads. Soon, Tweed owned an extravagant Fifth Avenue mansion and an estate in Connecticut, was giving lavish parties and weddings, and owned diamond jewelry worth tens of thousands of dollars. In total, the Tweed Ring brought in an estimated $50 to $200 million in corrupt money. Boss Tweed’s avarice knew few boundaries.

The corruption in New York City’s government went far beyond greed, however; it cheapened the rule of law and degraded a healthy civil society. Most people in local government received their jobs because of patronage rather than merit and talent. The Tweed Ring also manipulated elections in a variety of ways. It hired people to vote multiple times and had sheriffs and temporary deputies protect them while doing so. It stuffed ballot boxes with fake votes and bribed or arrested election inspectors who questioned its methods. As Tweed later said, The ballots made no result; the counters made the result. Sometimes the ring simply ignored the ballots and falsified election results. Tammany candidates often received more votes than there were eligible voters in a district. In addition, the ring used intimidation and street violence by hiring thugs or crooked cops to sway voters’ minds and received payoffs from criminal activities it allowed to flourish.

The cartoon shows Boss Tweed leaning on a voting booth that is labeled In Counting There is Strength. The booth has the ballot box on top of it. The caption at the bottom of the cartoon reads That's what's the matter. Boss Tweed: As long as I count the votes, what are you going to do about it? Say?

Tweed’s election manipulations were well known, with intimidation tactics keeping the ballot counts under the Tweed Ring’s control.

Although Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall engaged in corrupt politics, they undoubtedly helped the immigrants and poor of the city in many ways. Thousands of recent immigrants in New York were naturalized as American citizens and adult men had the right to vote. Because New York City, like other major urban areas, often lacked basic services, the Tweed Ring provided these for the price of a vote, or several votes. Tweed made sure the immigrants had jobs, found a place to live, had enough food, received medical care, and even had enough coal money to warm their apartments during the cold of winter. In addition, he contributed millions of dollars to the institutions that benefited and cared for the immigrants, such as their neighborhood churches and synagogues, Catholic schools, hospitals, orphanages, and charities. When dilapidated tenement buildings burned down, ring members followed the firetrucks to ensure that families had a place to stay and food to eat. Immigrants in New York were grateful for the much-needed services from the city and private charities. The Tweed Ring seemed to be creating a healthier society, and in overwhelming numbers, immigrants happily voted for the Democrats who ran the city.

In the end, however, Boss Tweed’s greed was too great and his exploitation was too brazen. The New York Times exposed the rampant corruption of his ring and ran stories of the various frauds. Meanwhile, the periodical Harper’s Weekly ran the editorial cartoons of Thomas Nast, which lampooned the Tweed Ring for its illegal activities. Tweed was actually more concerned about the cartoons than about the investigative stories, because many of his constituents were illiterate but understood the message of the drawings. He offered bribes to the editor of the New York Times and to Nast to stop their public criticisms, but neither accepted.

Boss Tweed was arrested in October 1871 and indicted shortly thereafter. He was tried in 1873, and after a hung jury in the first trial, he was found guilty in a second trial of more than 200 crimes including forgery and larceny. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

The cartoon shows Boss Tweed with a money bag as his head and a dollar sign as his face. The caption at the bottom of the cartoon reads The Brains that achieved the Tammany victory at the Rochester Democratic Convention.

One of Thomas Nast’s cartoons, called The Brains, argued that Boss Tweed won his elections thanks to money, not brains.

While he was in jail, Tweed was allowed to visit his family at home and take meals with them while a few guards waited at his doorstep. He seized an opportunity at one of these meals to escape in disguise across the Hudson to New Jersey, and then by boat to Florida, from there to Cuba, and finally to Spain. Because Spain’s government wanted the United States to end its support for Cuban rebels, it agreed to cooperate with U.S. authorities and apprehend Tweed. Aided by Nast’s cartoons in obtaining at least a close approximation of Tweed’s appearance, Spanish law enforcement recognized and arrested him and returned him to the United States. With his health broken and few remaining supporters, Tweed died in jail in 1878.

Watch this BRI Homework Help video on Boss Tweed for a look at his rise and fall and how Tammany Hall affect Gilded Age New York City.

Tammany Hall and the Tweed Ring are infamous models of Gilded Age urban corruption. Political machines corruptly ran several major cities throughout the United States, particularly in the Northeast and Midwest where millions of immigrants had settled. The machines may have provided essential services for immigrants, but their corruption destroyed good government and civil society by undermining the rule of law. By the early twentieth century, Progressive reformers had begun to target the bosses and political machines to reform city government in the United States.

Review Questions

1. Before becoming known as “Boss” Tweed, William Tweed served briefly as

  • mayor of New York City
  • governor of New York
  • a member of Congress
  • chair of the Board of Elections in New York

2. Tammany Hall’s treatment of immigrants who lived in New York City can be best described as

  • leading the fight for nativism
  • aiding immigrants with basic services
  • encouraging immigrants to live in ethnic enclaves in the city
  • providing job training for skilled laborers

3. Tammany Hall and Boss Tweed were most closely associated with which political party?

  • Republicans

4. The Tweed Ring made most of its money from graft. One major example was

  • charging businesses money to protect them from crime bosses
  • unfairly taxing immigrants
  • inflating the cost of major city projects such as the courthouse
  • inflating the tolls charged to cross the Brooklyn Bridge

5. During the late nineteenth century, Thomas Nast was best known as

  • a political opponent of William Tweed’s who served as governor of New York
  • a critic of the Tweed Ring who published exposés about Boss Tweed
  • an immigrant who was helped by Tweed and went on to a successful political career
  • a critic of Tweed who sketched political cartoons exposing his corruption

6. An event that propelled William Tweed to a position of respect and more power in New York City was his

  • first successful election as mayor of New York in 1864
  • success in restoring order after the draft riots in 1863
  • ability to authorize public works to benefit large numbers of immigrants
  • success at providing comfortable housing for lower-income families

Free Response Questions

  • Explain the positive and negative effect of the Tweed Ring on New York City.
  • Evaluate the impact of the political machine on U.S. cities in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

AP Practice Questions

The cartoon shows Boss Tweed with a money bag as his head and a dollar sign as his face. The caption at the bottom of the cartoon reads

Thomas Nast depicts Boss Tweed in Harper’s Weekly (October 21, 1871).

1. Thomas Nast’s intent in drawing the political cartoon was to

  • demonstrate the generosity of the political boss in the late nineteenth century
  • show how corrupt Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall were in New York politics
  • illustrate the greed of industrialists during the late nineteenth century
  • show how honest politicians were

2. Which of the following emerged to seek to correct the problems created by the situation lampooned in the cartoon?

  • The Populist movement
  • The Progressive Era
  • The Know Nothings
  • The Second Great Awakening

3. Which group probably benefited most from the situation portrayed in the cartoon?

  • Immigrants to the United States
  • Members of labor unions
  • African Americans
  • Supporters of women’s suffrage

Primary Sources

Nast, Thomas. Thomas Nast Cartoons on Boss Tweed . Bill of Rights Institute. https://resources.billofrightsinstitute.org/heroes-and-villains/boss-tweed-avarice/

Suggested Resources

Ackerman, Kenneth D. Boss Tweed: The Rise and Fall of the Corrupt Pol Who Conceived the Soul of Modern New York . New York: Carroll and Graf, 2005.

Allswang, John M. Bosses, Machines, and Urban Votes . Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986.

Brands, H.W. American Colossus: The Triumph of Capitalism, 1865-1900 . New York: Doubleday, 2010.

Lynch, Dennis Tilden. Boss Tweed: The Story of a Grim Generation . New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 2002.

Trachtenberg, Alan. The Incorporation of America: Culture and Society in the Gilded Age . New York: Hill and Wang, 1982.

White, Richard. The Republic for Which It Stands: The United States during Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865-1896 . Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2017.

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This essay was originally published on August 22 2019.

Today, the Trump Organization lies at the epicenter of political power in the American state. How should we make sense of the family business and its relationship to politics? Ethics watchdogs and journalists speak of “ conflicts of interest ” when the president governs from Mar-a-Lago or promotes his golf properties and brands. Most conspicuously, the president flaunts the  Emoluments Clause  of the Constitution by accepting payments from domestic states and foreign governments. Critics denounce the potential for quid pro quo  corruption  by big spenders looking to court favor at Trump venues or by extending the president’s family lucrative business opportunities. But even anxieties about public corruption miss the big picture.

Donald Trump is building his company into a “platform.” By this, I mean the president has positioned the Trump Organization as the indispensable medium through which the party-government linkage is valorized. Roughly $10 billion circulated throughout the political system in 2016, a conservative estimate that adds up the publicly reported cost of the  election cycle  with that of  lobbying . Although small in comparison to other sectors, the political-industrial complex is  increasingly financialized  and growing rapidly. The rents extracted by political professionals are actually minor relative to the policy windfall. Companies receive a taxpayer bailout. A new pharmaceutical drug is brought to market. Or, if cryptocurrencies are allowed to flourish. Out of this swamp has grown something novel: a party business that governs.

Platform capitalism is a term that describes our new age of  digital monopolies . Like Facebook, Google, or Amazon, the Trump Organization aspires to operate as a ‘platform’, exerting monopolistic control over an industry or sector. (At least, insofar as the political market is organized by the Republican party.) By gaining a commanding position, platforms disrupt business as usual by flexing market-making powers with the potential to extract super-profits. We have become accustomed to hear startups pitched as “Uber, but for x.” (One satirical Twitter bot generates ideas “ Like Uber, but for…noodle ”). What matters to platforms is not any particular content or commodity — on Facebook, users post whatever they desire. Rather, the gambit lies in control over the infrastructure through which various types of content flow. You buy or sell books on Amazon, but also diapers, clothing — anything. You watch TV there. The Seattle-based company recently moved into shipping packages, cloud computing, and banking services. Platforms are not the car (initially, at least) but the road upon which you drive.

By bringing platform capitalism into the party system, Trump is experimenting with a new mode of political organization. Presidents historically govern by centralizing party activity through the Republican National Committee (RNC) or Democratic National Committee (DNC). More recently, SuperPACs run by political advisors have played an important role as the president’s official voice (think of Priorities USA or Obama For America). Donald Trump’s approach differs. A wide constellation of political actors — from officeholders, campaign committees, affinity groups, donors, and companies, to trade associations and foreign governments — are now marshaling their activity through the president’s family business. What began as a  marketing ploy  has evolved into a platform upon which partisans and favor-seekers must compete.

From Party Machine To Platform

“ We don’t want nobody nobody sent ,” one machine politician famously quipped. The axiom exemplifies how coordination is one of the few imperatives in democracy, and that influence is predicated upon closing ranks. Political parties  first emerged  as a way to promote careers, work in concert with others, and place a common agenda before voters. With the rise of mass politics in the nineteenth century, however, a question arose. If the party coordinates the government, who or what coordinates the party?  Bosses  and  the political machines  they built took on the role of coordinating the coordinators. Just as parties were an extra-constitutional form of organization, machines developed unexpectedly as shadow institutions that were vital but one-step removed.

The personalities and institutional expressions of political machines varied widely. Some twentieth century cases were built upon the charisma of populist leaders like  James Curley  of Boston or  Huey Long  of Louisiana. Others, like Chicago’s  Daley Machine , tracked closer to  bureaucratic authoritarianism . What all the machines held in common was a monopoly right to speak and act on behalf of the party, secured by control over the means of election and public administration. Public and private sources of patronage — from the parks department, for example, or a shady land deal — were leveraged into nominations and offices. If you wanted a career in politics, or a policy fix, you simply had to work through the boss or his adjuncts. This is what “practical politics” meant in the industrial era of mass politics.

Today, party competition and patronage flows through Trump’s private company rather than a classic-style machine. The new party monopoly is not about absolute control over nominations or parochial territory. Instead, what matters is shaping where and how investment moves through the political system: the way in which domestic or global capital materializes within national political institutions; how it connects to the political-industrial complex, from election campaigns to lobby shops; where Republicans meet and spend party money; and influence over the means by which personal relationships are formed fundamental to career ambitions. This last point on political socialization, by the way, is elemental for a party trending toward  patrimonial-style rule .

As a capital-intensive platform, the Trump Organization has brought order to the chaotic internal Republican party market. The Supreme Court’s decision in  Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission  (2010) gave rise to innumerable advocacy groups that decentered the traditional party apparatus, from the Tea Party and Koch network, to fly-by night scamPACs, and billionaire donors going it alone. That ‘warring states’ period of internal conflict is over. What now constitutes the boundary of legitimate party competition is policed by the extent to which disparate groups are willing and able to work through the president’s myriad businesses, by courting official favor. Those who patronize the Trump Organization expect to be first in line.

Luxury Organization

If the classic machines coordinated a mix of public and private resources within the shadow of the party state, how does this look today? Party committees, SuperPACs, and ideological groups are some of the  biggest spenders  at Trump properties, especially the Trump International Hotel, located just down the street from the White House. Clients follow public signaling from the president himself,  his own campaign spending , and patronage from high-ranking administration officials. Frequent travel to Mar-a-Lago has pulled the  orbit of corporate lobbying  into his private club. Before the presidential election, regulars at the Palm Beach resort largely consisted of the nouveau riche and celebrities. Since 2016,  membership fees  have doubled and Mar-a-Lago has transformed into a  luxury political clubhouse  filled with influencers and apparatchiks. Trump’s daughter Ivanka, formerly a top executive at the Trump Organization, works in the White House as one of her father’s main advisors. Meanwhile, Don Jr. and Eric continue to expand the company at  home  and  abroad . Three years into the Trump Administration, doing business with the First Family is doing business with the United States.

In some ways, times have changed since the old machines. Daniel Schlozman and Sam Rosenfeld argue that parties today are “ hollow ,” in the sense that they have few grassroots mechanisms characteristic of mass participation. The centrality of petty officeholding is also different. Back in the 1880s, the reformer  William Ivins  referred to public offices distributed throughout the spoils system as the “capital” of the machine. Allocating coveted jobs allowed party machines to embed themselves deeply in social life at the neighborhood or ward level. Patronage workers then returned a portion of salary (or time) back into a common pot that served as the machine’s working capital. Monetary tithes were called  assessments . Technically, the cash was a voluntary donation of partisans to their party. But lack of payment meant loss of party standing, and therefore, your job. It  took reformers nearly a century  to ban assessments at the federal level.

Today, political assessments have reemerged without patronage armies. The parties operate more like  brands  that market a collective image and cue partisan voters with messaging on TV spots or social media. Thus, in order to centralize management over  producer services  in the political sector, the Trump Organization has little need to employ a modern army of ward heelers. Butlers at Mar-a-Lago are not directly involved in the election canvass in the way clerks or messengers at the nation’s ports were once upon a time. Yet, it would be a mistake to presume there lacks a material basis to Trump’s mode of political organization similar to the patronage mills of yore.

The platform’s capital is whatever inputs into the Trump Organization are necessary to gain the ear and favor of the president.  T-Mobile dropped $195,000  at the Trump International Hotel in Washington D.C. while regulatory approvals were pending for its  merger with AT&T . Saudi lobbyists  spent $270,000  there, right after the election time. And  so on . The public does not have a full picture of private transactions. Still, transparency databases compiled by the  Center For Responsive Politics ,  Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington , and other  investigative reports , suggest that payments are  systematic . What is this money but a political assessment? Clients must again tithe a portion of their earnings back to the party leader who, in this instance, is president. Recent  financial disclosures  show the Trump International Hotel alone earned more than $40 million in revenue last year. The hotel’s  political clientele  makes it by far the most promising new asset in the Trump Organization’s 500-large portfolio of limited liability corporations.

Clubhouse Rules

Capital accumulation as a mode of governance is “ very legal & very cool ,” according to President Trump. Here, another parallel is apt with the business model of Silicon Valley platforms. Trump Organization profits are only possible via the political equivalent of regulatory evasion. Airbnb or Uber set up shop in a city first, or Facebook rolls out a new service with privacy implications, and then dare regulators to react. Trump has brazenly  violated  long standing campaign finance law and  conflict of interest rules  in similar fashion by  using his company to electioneer , by  making political contributions through his charitable foundation , and by  refusing to divest  from personal business once in office. Federal oversight and enforcement, weakened by court rulings and  party polarization , is non-functional. The strategy is risky. So far it has been more than  vindicated . Judge Paul Niemeyer and the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals recently dismissed one of the many emoluments suits, reasoning that it would be  inconceivable and impractical  to separate the president from a family business that carries his name. Any cases that do reach the Supreme Court are likely to ratify political innovations that entrepreneurs have already brought into existence. Why?

Let us not forget that political finance is but recently deregulated. The post-Watergate consensus about limiting the influence of money in politics only unraveled in the wake of  Citizens United v. FEC  (2010). Along with a permissive approach to unlimited funds and corporate electioneering, the landmark case established that “ingratiation” is not tantamount to public corruption.  McCutcheon v. FEC  (2014),  McDonnell v. U.S.  (2015) and the 2017  corruption mistrial  of Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) reflect the federal court’s skepticism that favors, gifts, payments or special privileges given to public officials result in  quid pro quo behavior . The First Amendment right of individuals and corporations to deploy private wealth, as they wish, in politics is given wide berth by the Roberts Court.

In this way, Trump is the  first Citizens United  president. Mick Mulvaney  explained to a conference of bankers that he never held a meeting with lobbyists during his tenure in Congress, until they donated to one of his political committees. The fee-for-access method is clarifying. Mulvaney is now Trump’s chief of staff, and it is reasonable to ask whether the approach is generalized in the White House. For the Roberts Court, property qualifications like this are desirable barriers that promote the health of national political institutions. The logic harkens back to a long history of  property and taxpayer qualifications  that once restricted the electorate by  race and class . Few people have the money, let alone the time or skills, to contest roadblocks to political participation. In the last cycle when an incumbent president was up for re-election, more than a quarter of reported political donations came from the  tiniest sliver  of the population — a mere one percent of the one percent. The court’s approach assures the most propertied interests in society will be first in line. If the line gets too long, the gates of Mar-a-Lago, a private club where the Trump has  conducted one third of his presidency , can always be shut.

Even if you have money to burn there is no ‘sure thing.’ In business, as in politics, you need to know where and how to invest wisely. That vehicle is the Trump Organization. This does not imply that anyone who drops money at Trump International Hotel or rents space at Trump Tower will get exactly what they want, or when they want it, as if selecting candy from a vending machine. Instead, the president’s company looks to structure the political marketplace. Clients pay to walk through Mar-a-Lago’s veranda or to be on the terrace at the right moment, and catch the attention of someone who matters. And what is the hospitality industry — of which the Trump International Hotel and Mar-a-Lago are exemplar — if not the business of  ingratiation ? By granting expansive rights to private capital, the Roberts Court invited a risk-taking entrepreneur to run their family business from the White House. After all, Donald Trump is the first president who is also a company.  Corporations are people , too.

Jeffrey D. Broxmeyer is an Assistant professor of Political Science and Public Administration at The University of Toledo. His first book, Electoral Capitalism: The Party System In New York’s Gilded Age, is forthcoming from the University of Pennsylvania Press.   @JeffBroxmeyer

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Jeffrey D. Broxmeyer

Assistant professor of Political Science and Public Administration at The University of Toledo

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Political Machines in the US Urban Politics

Introduction, birth of political machines, role of political machines in city modernization, role of immigrants, city governments, source of funding for local governments, city government budgeting, works cited.

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). The support base is large enough to deliver victory during elections. Political machines exist for mutual benefits to the members. In this case, politicians get votes while voters are rewarded with jobs and money. Business people contribute campaign funds and they are rewarded with government contracts (Tuckel & Maisel 101).

In the US, political machines had membership at three levels. There was a party boss or group of people at the top who controlled all members and activities in the organization (Tuckel & Maisel 103). There were electoral district captains operating under the command of the boss. Electoral district captains were responsible for mobilising, organising and soliciting support from a section of the electorate. At the bottom there were voters who made their contribution by voting for the machine’s selected candidates in return for favours. Most political scientists have rated political machines as most corrupt and unfortunate form of leadership (Tuckel & Maisel 104)). However, a closer look at the activities of political machines reveals that they played a crucial role in infrastructural modernization and political reforms in US cities.

Most of the US cities experienced high population growth rates in the19 th century due to arrival of immigrants from Europe and other parts of the world. As Tuckel and Maisel notes, this population growth led to over-stretching of services provided by city authorities (105). As a result, city governments became infamous, forcing politicians to devise other methods of gaining and retaining political power. In this regard, politicians resorted to political machines (Tuckel & Maisel 107-108).

Political machines were introduced at the time when most city governments were experiencing inefficiencies and lack of faith among the constituents. For example, one of the most talked about political machine was the Tammany Hall of New York City (Tuckel & Maisel 87). Tammany Hall was a Democratic Party political machine that controlled political activities in New York from late 19 th to early 20 th century. As Tuckel & Maisel observes, the machine experienced most memorable times under the command of William Tweed who was famously known as “Boss” (88). Under the command of Tweed, this machine won the mayor’s post and majority seats in the legislature (Tuckel & Maisel 89). Tweed was appointed together with other members of the machine to occupy important positions in the city government. He engineered the government to embark on streamlining service delivery.

Tweed manipulated the legislature to formulate a new charter that brought the city budget under control of the city government (Tuckel & Maisel 91). He was able to leverage the city with municipal bonds and start the crucial process of modernization. This brought some efficiency even though the city population was still growing. Tuckel & Maisel (92) notes that other cities that had political machines such as Boston, Chicago and Cleveland had the same experience.

Although political machines were strong and well organised, they were also highly corrupt. Members of the machine were well rewarded while non-members were intimidated. This led to formation of reform movements to fight the injustices perpetrated against a section of the population (Tuckel & Maisel 93). As a result, more efficiency was realized, leading to further modernization of infrastructure.

Political machines were majorly used by immigrants to access political power. Majority of the immigrants were Irish people who had relocated to pursue jobs (Tuckel & Maisel 93). The population of Irish immigrants in the US had increased to a level where they could challenge for political power. As new immigrants arrived, they were recruited into the machine and rewarded with gifts. This further angered the nativist Protestants who advocated for Civil Service rather than patronage (Tuckel & Maisel 99). The federal government under Theodore Roosevelt also mobilized citizens to vote against political machines. This led to elimination of most machines by the year 1960.

In the US, state governments have significant influence on the running of city governments. According to Hannarong & Akoto (40), the powers that city governments enjoy are donated by state governments. In this case, state governments can change the operations of city governments provided that such changes are in agreement with the state laws. However, organization of city governments may differ from one state to another (Hannarong & Akoto 41-42). In this regard, different states may have different laws governing local governments. It is also worth mentioning that some states have given more powers to city governments than others. Sometimes states make laws that frustrate the operations of local governments.

Most of the funds used by US city governments come from direct taxation (Hannarong & Akoto 43). These include property tax, personal income tax, general sales tax, business income tax, and tax on real estates. In most states, taxation laws are made by state governments. City governments also get funding from state and federal governments (Hannarong & Akoto 44). Contributions from state and federal governments make the second largest source of funding for most of the city governments. Direct investment also contributes to the funding of city governments (Hannarong & Akoto 45).

City government budgeting is done by the mayor (Tannenwald 467). After preparing preliminary estimates, the budget is taken to the city council for approval. Before accepting or rejecting the proposed budget, it is taken for public hearing by the relevant council committee to have the opinion of tax payers and other stakeholders (Tannenwald 467). Budget making is not always a smooth process.

During public hearing, stakeholders may make a lot of demands; some of which may be unrealistic. As Tannenwald notes, common demands include cutting taxes and delivery of quality services (468). At this point, budget makers also get the opportunity to explain to stakeholders some of the constraints that may be guiding their budget decisions. After public hearing, the council makes a decision on whether to accept or reject the budget. This is normally done through voting.

Sometimes approved budgets may have to be adjusted. This may happen due to changes done on taxation laws by the state (Tannenwald 469). Under such circumstances, the city government can look for alternative funding or adjust the budget. Alternative revenues can be raised through borrowing which has to be done in accordance with the state rules. This dilemma can be addressed by giving city councils more control on taxation laws.

Political machines were invented by politicians as a survival mechanism at the time when their performance was in question. The machines were strong, highly organised but very corrupt. They were mostly used to obtain political power by Irish immigrants. The corrupt ways of political machines attracted reforms that led to their elimination. On the other hand, US cities are run differently in different states. Most of them still operate under strict control by the mother states. Sometimes this causes confusion, especially in the budget making process. Since city councils are in close proximity with the working of city governments, they should be in charge of the laws that govern local government taxation.

Hannarong, Shamsub & Akoto Joseph. State and Local Fiscal Structure and Fiscal Stress, Journal of Public Budgeting, Accounting & Financial Management , 16.1(2004): 40-61. Print.

Tannenwald, Robert. Are State and Local Revenue Systems becoming Obsolete?, National Tax Journal , 3(2002):467-489. Print

Tuckel, P. & Maisel, R. Nativity Status and Voter Turnout in Early Twentieth-Century Urban United States. Journal of Historical Methods , 41.2(2008): 87–108. Print.

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Machine Politics: Benefits and Limitations Essay

Introduction.

Machine politics is an exchange process in which it is seen as an essential way for those who would like to win the elections and the political machines encouraged the favors and the benefits of the votes in America. Political machines operated during the time when the public life was different from the home life. Features of the machine politics are that it was made of the political leaders to exercise their powers and there were different group of leaders who had different function to make the organization work. Different groups of people, who include: the party leads who was the boss and was the controller of every thing in the organization.

He was above the administrative assistants and this meant that he guided the activities that were done in the organization. There was the ward leader who worked with the top leaders, the precinct captains followed these ward leaders and lastly there are the block captains. (Dick, 1990)

A function of the machines was the cooperation in which they led to the need for these people knowing what to do and how to go about the problems that existed. There was the protection of the shops and the buildings were protected from the attacks this is because the political machines received payoffs from the sweatshops and therefore there was the need to care for the changes that occurred. The changes also operated in setting the losses that were caused by the ethnic clashes and the resettlement of the new arrivals of the navitists.

Benefits for these political machines included: there was the naturalization of the new citizens and the provision of new arrivals the right channel to the social mobility. There was the material benefit like the assistance for food and shelters and other basic needs that are required during the times of elections this was a benefit to the people. The leaders viewed if as a safe way of waiting for the establishment of the civic actions. The groups had an agreement and the machines had to have the assistance that was concerned with the achievement of the goals and this led to the attainment of the votes that were required. The urban machines were responsible for dispense of the non-material benefits to the concerned groups.

There was the expansion of the cities, businesses and the real estate developers got profit and there was the distribution of the new patronage jobs in the places that was concerned. The political machine has it concern in ensuring that the growth that was undertaken was to be done in the right manner and therefore the permissions that was intended was given to the concerned group. (Dick, 1990)

Limitations of these machines is that it was also seen as the breakage system where by the machine politician had interest on the keeping the power for himself and had no concern in seeking for the advance broad public policy goals. The machine leaders were in the risks of making enemies and this led to the losses of votes. The machines was not responsible for all in the city and therefore this meant that it was not beneficial to all but it had its main concern to a certain group of people in the city.

The big city machines were dominated by the Irish and there was a limited benefit to the other groups like the Italians, the east European ethnics and the race minorities. The political machines were seen to be corrupt but they did not make it clear how it operated. The political machines were also responsible for practices like the organized crimes and the illegal gambling, which had a high record in the country.

The political machine was able to get votes from the lower class workers but they did not provide the best conditions for the slums and the sweatshops. This meant that the Americans benefited while the blacks were discriminated and therefore they were not cared for in the right way and this lead to the problems been faced by the blacks, as they were associated with the bad practices that occurred in the country. The provision of the jobs were limited and this meant that not all benefited even though it was providing for the creation of new jobs but the jobs were limited to the immigrants.

Factors that led to the decline of the political machines in the country was the result of the restrictions that were placed on the people by the federal government then this meant that there was no potential supporters to such machines and this led to its decline. There was also the rise of the national prosperity and education where by the educated and wealthy voters were independent and therefore they did not like the trading for the votes.

The Americas wealth led to the new geographical movement and the onset of the suburban boom affected the use of these machines. With the growth of the welfare state then the local machines were undermined and could not be used and therefore the benefits that existed were no longer in place. This is because the local machine was not able to compete with the new federal programs and therefore it was no longer in use.

Another reason for the decline was the changes that were brought about by the reform movements which had occurred in the country and it led to the merit system been in use. There was also the civil service where by the machines were not able to offer the jobs and this led to the decline as the civil services were in use. There was the rise in the use of TVs, which led to the media orientation, and the independence and this was an effect to the armies as they made use of the modern mass media. (Dick, 1990)

Political machines even though it was widely ides in the country that is America, it had more limitations that the benefits this is because it had the gap that existed in the provision of the services and jobs this meant that the people could not benefit and mainly the blacks were not well cater for. Political machines were for the rich leaders therefore the poor were not involved in it and this lead to more problems affecting the poor people as they were not given any importance and benefits in the country.

Dick, P. (1990): The politics in the America. The university press.

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political machines essay

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political machines essay

Essay Paper on Political Machines

Being an unofficial political system, political machine founds its activities on the basis of patronage, using the structure of representative democracy. Their important integrating role in American society is clearly viewed through country’s history and successful implementation of its main principles.

The main difference between trade unions and political machines consisted in the fact that the electors of this system tended to be unskilled workers, unionized skilled workers and middle-class elements united. The sites of organization were in the neighbourhoods where workers lived at that time, and their mayor demands involved the following: allocation of public jobs among the city’s various ethnic groups and of public facilities among its various neighbourhoods. Public machine in its turn was a solid secure of benefits for its followers that united them for the fight in the electoral arena.

On the national level the Republicans and Democrats were strong parties and rather strong leaders, but on the local level in order to attract more and more votes, they constructed public machines that efficiently provided them with what they needed. The machine politicians who moved to the fore of American urban politics late in the century established their political hegemony by arranging an accommodation among the major political forces in the city. The precise terms varied from city to city, as did the process through which the locally dominant machine became institutionalized. It is not feasible to describe these variations here; the account below will focus upon a single city, New York. However, the events that led to the institutionalization of New York’s Tammany machine were basically similar to those that took place in other large American cities…

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  • Political Machines - Theodore Lowi

Political Machines - Theodore Lowi - Essay Example

Political Machines - Theodore Lowi

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What to Know About Pakistan’s Election

Analysts say Pakistan’s powerful military has never intervened so openly on behalf of its preferred candidate.

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A street scene with people and motorbikes. Campaign posters hang outside market stalls near colorful garlands.

By Christina Goldbaum

Reporting from Lahore, Pakistan

Pakistan went to the polls on Thursday for an election that analysts say will be among the least credible in the country’s 76-year history, one that comes at a particularly turbulent moment for the nation.

For nearly half of Pakistan’s existence, the military has ruled directly. Even under civilian governments, military leaders have wielded enormous power, ushering in politicians they favored and pushing out those who stepped out of line.

This will be only the third democratic transition between civilian governments in Pakistan’s history. And it is the first national election since former Prime Minister Imran Khan was removed from power after a vote of no confidence in 2022. Mr. Khan’s ouster — which he accused the military of orchestrating, though the powerful generals deny it — set off a political crisis that has embroiled the nuclear-armed nation for the past two years.

The vote on Thursday is the culmination of an especially contentious campaign season , in which analysts say the military has sought to gut Mr. Khan’s widespread support and pave the way to victory for the party of his rival, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif .

Here’s what you need to know.

What’s the campaign been like?

Over the past two years, Pakistanis have come out in droves to protest the behind-the-scenes role that they believe the military played in Mr. Khan’s ouster. The generals have responded in force, arresting Mr. Khan’s allies and supporters, and working to cripple his party ahead of the vote.

While the military has often meddled in elections to pave the way for its preferred candidates, analysts say this crackdown has been more visible and widespread than others.

That has also made this perhaps Pakistan’s most muted election in decades. Streets that would normally be filled with political rallies have remained empty. For weeks, many people were convinced that the election would not even take place on the scheduled date. A common refrain among Pakistanis is that this is a “selection” — not an election — as many feel it is clear that the military has predetermined the winner.

Who’s running?

Roughly 128 million voters were eligible to cast ballots for a new Parliament, which will then choose a new prime minister after the election.

There are 266 seats to fill in the National Assembly, the lower house of Parliament, with an additional 70 seats reserved for women and minorities. If no party wins an outright majority — which is considered highly likely — then the one with the biggest share of assembly seats can form a coalition government.

Three main parties dominate politics in Pakistan: the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (P.M.L.N.), the Pakistan People’s Party (P.P.P.) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (P.T.I.).

Mr. Khan, the leader of P.T.I., has been notably absent from the campaign: He was arrested in August and has since been sentenced to multiple prison terms for a variety of offenses and barred from holding public office for a decade. Candidates from his party say they have been detained , forced to denounce the party and subjected to intimidation campaigns.

Most election observers expect a victory by the P.M.L.N. , the party of Mr. Sharif. A three-time prime minister, Mr. Sharif built his political reputation on reviving economic growth. He has repeatedly fallen out with the military after pushing for more civilian control in government, only to find himself once more in its favor in this election.

The P.P.P. is led by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in 2007 . The party is expected to win some seats in the south, where it has a power base, and would most likely form part of a Sharif-led coalition government.

What’s at stake?

Pakistan’s next government will inherit a raft of problems. The economy is in shambles, terrorist attacks have resurged and relations with neighbors — particularly Afghanistan, ruled by the Taliban — are tense.

The cost of living has soared in Pakistan, where inflation last year hit a record high of nearly 40 percent. Meanwhile, gas outages and electricity blackouts are frequent occurrences for the country’s 240 million people. Pakistan has had to turn to the International Monetary Fund for bailouts to keep its economy afloat and prop up its foreign exchange reserves. It also has relied on financing from wealthy allies, like China and Saudi Arabia.

At the same time, extremist violence in Pakistan has surged since the Taliban swept back to power in Afghanistan in 2021. Much of it has been carried out by the Pakistani Taliban, also known as Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, or T.T.P. — an ally and ideological twin of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

That has stoked tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan, with Pakistani officials accusing the Taliban of offering the Pakistani Taliban safe haven on Afghan soil, a claim that Taliban officials deny. Those tensions appeared to boil over last year when Pakistan ordered all undocumented foreigners to leave the country by Nov. 1, a move that has primarily affected Afghans .

How will the vote take place?

A day before the election, two separate explosions outside election offices in an insurgency-hit area of Pakistan killed at least 22 people . The blasts were the latest in a series of attacks on election-related activities, including the targeting of candidates, throughout the campaign season.

In light of such security threats, the authorities have designated half of Pakistan’s approximately 90,000 polling stations as “sensitive” or “most sensitive” and have deployed the military to secure them.

The polls officially closed at 5 p.m. Preliminary results are expected by late Thursday night, but it could take up to three days for all votes to be officially counted.

Once the count is finalized, members of Parliament will convene to form the government and choose the next prime minister. The selection of the prime minister is expected by the end of February.

Zia ur-Rehman contributed reporting.

Christina Goldbaum is the Afghanistan and Pakistan bureau chief for The Times. More about Christina Goldbaum

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