Tammany Hall: a (partial) defense
Found this article challenging the conventional view of Tammany Hall as a byword for the Democratic Party's corruption at an unexpected source: the conservative blog Front Porch Republic. Though perhaps "traditionalist" would be a better descriptor, now that "conservative" has become a virtual synonym for "fascist".
In the most cynical terms possible, in modern politics votes are acquired through advertising, which is guided by the findings of public relations experts using the psychological technology of the focus group and the poll. Since 2004, House and Senate races have been won by the candidate who spent the most money between 83 and 98 percent of the time. The intimacy and persuasion needed in vote-getting are generated primarily through the medium of the TV screen, and the direct financial beneficiaries of that money are, of course, the TV stations.
By contrast, in Tammany New York, votes were acquired through social contact and practical favors, financial and legal assistance, jobs and drinks at the pub. The direct financial beneficiaries were, yes, the politicians and the businessmen who got contracts at far above the market price but also the poor families whose rent got paid, the boy who got a job working for the new El being put up along Greenwich Street and 9th Avenue, the couple whose hotel room was paid for when they were burnt out of their apartment.
In less cynical terms: Tammany was a corruption, but it was a corruption of something good: the idea that government should, as Plunkitt said, be warm and personal; that decisions should be made locally; that rulers should directly and practically help the ruled; that there should be an everyday and immediate connection between the politicians and the people.
More at: http://www.frontporchrepublic.com/2013/10/the-once-and-future-boss-the-possibilities-of-tammany-hall/
when I taught American history, I told my students
When I taught American history I told my students about the chicago Dem machine, how on election day the precinct captain went door to door, leaving a pair of hose for the mrs. and tickets for 2 free drinks for mr. after he got home from work. the captain also reminded the voters how to vote straight Dem. by putting a sample ballot in the door jam. IN exchange for that (the voters could always vote how they wanted to) the voters could always call the precinct captain if they did not receive city services promptly. There was a trade-off that is missing in our politics today. In the South,for example, old folks who got their SS and Medicare started voting Republican in the 1980s based on religion and racism. they saw no connection between politics and their federal benefits. Maybe some day they will be forced to see the connection! I hope it will not come to that.
...more community organizers.
(Sits back and watches Republican heads explode).