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Sunday, September 9, 2018

Decline of Urban Political Machines

At The Hill, Reid Wilson lists four reasons for the decline of urban political machines:

  • Patronage: "In the 1970s, Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley could hand out as many as 35,000 jobs, according to Dick Simpson, a political scientist at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Today, there are fewer than 5,000 such patronage positions. Similar declines have happened in New York and Philadelphia."
  • Demographics: "`As groups that have been politically marginalized are empowered, [minorities are] taking on traditional powers,' said former Rep. Steve Israel (D), who represented Long Island in Congress and saw the party machines up close. `They deserve a seat at the table, and either the party chairman will give them a seat at the table, or they’ll grab one.'"
  • Information: “`It used to be that in order to know who was running for down-ballot offices in municipal elections, you needed your precinct captain to tell you. There was no way of getting information without getting it from someone who worked for the party,' said Mark Nevins, a Democratic strategist who works in Philadelphia politics."  Now the Internet provides people with such information.
  • Political nationalization: " [Eric] Schickler, the Berkeley political scientist, said the decline of machines is partly a consequence of a political dialogue that is far more national than local...`Machines generally thrive on a state/local orientation, but politics is more and more focused on national personalities and issues.'"