Comparison Of Political Machines And The Reform

Movement Essay, Research Paper

Compare and contrast political machines and the reform movement in terms of their views of the purposes of politics and government, the role of the average citizen in public affairs, and the appropriate processes of decision making.

Urban machines and the reform movement have radically different perceptions of how a local (city) government is supposed to function and be structured within a democratic society.

Political machines, in the beginning constructed by ambitious and hungry for power Irish, resulted in being a means of incorporation of the new immigrants into broader community. Their existence was the result of the perception of the early Irish immigrants that they can achieve social and financial recognition in the New World through political mobilization. Using financial resources to direct votes, machine bosses consolidated power as they controlled local government. Consequently, they were rendered local patronage by the city government in the form of divisible benefits. Such benefits as cash, jobs and contracts, which appealed to the working class as well as to the business community, were distributed again producing more political power for the machine. Through this mechanism, machines organized the entire range of political influence, engaging both the business community and the lower and upper classes in a strenuous political race. Given that the usual citizen could have his claim heard within the gulfs of the machine, the actual decision makers were not only the men at the head of the it, but decisions were the outcome of a function whose variables represented the whole spectrum of society.

Nevertheless, urban machines collapsed during the 20th century, giving way to the reform movement whose two of its major goals were the moralization of politics and the de facto dominance of public over private interest. Furthermore, reformers believed that corruption could be reduced and governmental procedures could become more efficient only by the substitution of party-affiliated politicians for nonpartisan professional administrators. The latter would handle city politics in a businesslike way in order to secure an honest and methodical distribution of social services (schools, redevelopment projects, parks, etc.) among different city groups. Therefore, in contrast with machine politics, there was usually no room available for patronage into the reform movement. However, there was no room for citizen influence over decision making either. Especially when the adopted election system was at-large, nonpartisan and council-manager, constituency s only power laid on the ballot. Taking into consideration the voters lack of access to the city s mechanisms and often being influenced by business groups, the municipal council and the city s manager sometimes reached conclusions about the city s issues covertly. Although manager and council have always been in the area of power balance and mutual influence between them, the average citizen s only hope was in fact an insurgency.

Thus, we can see quite clearly that machines were effective in policy making. However, issues were raised on whether their methods were acceptable in an organized community. These issues were solved with the emergence of the reformers. But now it was the effectiveness of the system that was challenged.


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