Political machines are usually disciplined political organizations that in most cases have authoritative bosses or small groups that command the support of many supporters who are later rewarded for their efforts. In the US, a political machine is political organizations that controls enough votes that enable it maintain administrative and political control of its community. Or it is also seen as an administration of public officials who are elected, and who use their influence to solidify and perpetuate their political party's power, mostly through very dubious means. This essay is going to look at the history of political machinery in the US and also ascertain whether it exists today (Shannon, 2008).
Political machines usually make use of the spoils system and patronage where by loyal party supporters are rewarded with specific appointed jobs in government. Other methods that are used in strengthening political machines include gerrymandering election districts, strategically planting party representatives in places of interest, making deals with lawyers, judges, and other professionals and vote buying through offering of social services to the voters. Many political machines work on the principles of hierarchy and discipline where the interests of the organization come first before those of the people. Political machines were mainly in the large cities in the US in the late 19th and early 20th century, where each city's political machine was run by a boss, someone who had the allegiance of elected officials, local business leaders, and their appointees. Initially these machines were formed to serve the interest of the American immigrants, immigrants who traded votes for power. The interest of the political machines was to win elections, in most cases by making sure that there was a large turn out of voters on the Election Day (Warness, 2010).
Although political machines reduced over the years, they have not completely been done away with. Political machines are still in use today, they have only changed their style of application. In many American cities politics is organized on a machinelike platform or have elements of the old political machines. Many cities still have ward bosses whose role is to marshal votes in return for job promises, favors and contracts. Many political analysts claim that political machines are no more, but they fail to recognize that these political systems have survived much longer than their imaginations. The William Tweed's Ring was dismantled in the 1870s but the political system that brought it into existence was not. Tammy Hall on the other hand reorganized itself to gain power in the subsequent elections. Tweed's successor managed to strengthen the power of the political machine doing away with obvious instances of corruption. Tammany Hall survived way into the 20th century (Munro, 2009).
There are factors that make people think that political machines have declined, but these factors only align in ways that enable powerful leaders to new kinds of political machines. A good example is Richard J. Daley, who was Chicago mayor from 1955 to 1976. During the turbulent economic period and polarized ethnic and racial politics, he used his power and skills to bring back the old political machine that was then adapted to the new realities. The many ethnic, racial and class coalitions have brought about the possibility for new kinds of political machines. As late as the 1980s US political shifts involved growing mobilizations in cities for the leadership of African-Americans. This has seen many black mayors elected in most US cities. Northern American politics in urban areas have also had its share of the political machine. Many of the cities still have elements of the old political machine, which are mostly run by whites who trace their origin to Europe. This group of people gets its powers from middle-class home owners, corporate business interests, and professional employees. In some cities where entrepreneurial and middle-class immigration allows, this Anglo White political machine has been tolerant to East Asian, South Asian, and Latino elected officials. The recent low immigration levels have left class and racial divisions unchanged, making the new political machines to be controlled by those who are able to marshal sufficient voter registration and cooperation with business elites who are powerful (Confessore, 2003).
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In contrast to the old political machine, today's political machine involves selected crucial connections to institutions, individuals, and processes that are far beyond the city's confines. Today there are plenty of political machines; the only difference is that they are spread out and therefore are hard to be noticed by many. In some of the cases these outside connections are just formal while others are just corrupt. For instance, the K Street project where efforts were made to turn the capital's lobbying community into a republican branch by forcing and pressuring trade associations and lobby firms to support a conservative agenda, give money to republican politicians, and only hire republicans. This is just but a grander version of the old political machines of big cities. This a political machine where the pols get the graft, the diamond-stickpin boys get contracts, but the poor get turkeys, jobs, and on rare occasions, some useful public programs. This project is strictly Sheriff of Nottingham, where only the interests of the rich are promoted. Some American cities have strong links to mobile transnational corporations and also investors. In such cities, the political machines are shaped by appeals made to an electorate that has enduring transitional connections (Wyly, 2008).
In Chicago political machines still play a great role in its politics. After the death of Harold Washington, Daley's son Richard was elected and again reelected into the mayor's position. For many years Chicago has endured terrible experiences that range from job losses to poverty, but its downtown office district has boomed. The poor neighborhoods have suffered by the economic transformation. There is no doubt that the working class whites are the one that supported and therefore supplanted Richard in that position for their own business and professional interests. Just in 2005 findings by a lawyer appointed by a judge to look into city hiring, showed that jobs are given out in exchange for political favors. With all these, Richard M. Daley went a head to win re-election as mayor in February 2007. Other political machines play part in political parties where by candidates are still hand picked and supported by those who know that the candidature will support their interests. For example the presidency of George W. Bush and the presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton is enough evidence of a dynastic political machine that exist at the national level at present (Gottlieb, 1993).
Political machines have been part and parcel of the American history. Many of the presidents that have come and gone and many who will come have been and will be products of political machines. The diverse American heritage that is made up of inter racial, inter ethnic population, enhance the thriving of political machines where each group wants its own in power. The frequency with which elections occur in the US is also a major contributor to the continuation of political machines where political parties are always planning and strategizing on how to assert their mandate. The political system in the US is also a contributor where by each state is identified with a certain political block. This is proof enough that political machines are here to stay and it will take long and perhaps a miracle for them to end.
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