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Are we seeing a return of Bossism?

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ck4829 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-21-06 03:08 PM
Original message
Are we seeing a return of Bossism?
"Bossism, in U.S. history, is a system of political control centering about a single powerful figure (the boss) and a complex organization of lesser figures (the machine) bound together by reciprocity in promoting financial and social self-interest.

See Political Machine for more details."

So I did.

"A political machine is an unofficial system of political organization based on patronage, the spoils system, "behind-the-scenes" control, and longstanding political ties within the structure of a representative democracy. Machines sometimes have a boss, and always have a long-term corps of dedicated workers who depend on the patronage generated by government contracts and jobs. Machine politics has existed in many United States cities, especially between about 1875 and 1950, but continuing in some cases down to the present day. It is also common (under the name clientelism or political clientelism) in Latin America, especially in rural areas. Japan's Liberal Democratic Party is often cited as another political machine, maintaining power in suburban and rural areas through its control of farm bureaus and road construction agencies.

The key to a political machine is patronage: holding public office implies the ability to do favors (and also the ability to profit from graft). Political machines generally steer away from issues-based politics, favoring a quid pro quo with certain aspects of a barter economy or gift economy: the patron or "boss" does favors for the constituents, who then vote as they are told to. Sometimes this system of favors is supplemented by threats of violence or harassment toward those who attempt to step outside of it."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bossism
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_Machine

OMG, this fits the Bush Administration like a glove!
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Canuckistanian Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-21-06 03:19 PM
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1. Just like Tammany Hall
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htuttle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-21-06 03:23 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. ...Or the Mafia
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Canuckistanian Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-21-06 03:48 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. Hmmm, yes...
You've got soldati (Limabugh, Hannity), consigleiere (Wolfowitz, Perle, Kristol), capos (Rice, Rumsferatu, Rove), and of course the Capo di Tutti Capi, the Chimpmeister himself.

Brilliant analogy!
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mcscajun Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-21-06 05:15 PM
Response to Reply #1
5. Tammany Hall was far more honest than BushCo
Edited on Mon Aug-21-06 05:16 PM by mcscajun
and while making themselves rich, actually did something for ordinary people, poor people.

Bush does seem to have taken at least one page from George Washington Plunkitt's book, though:
"Another thing that people won't stand for is showin' off your learnin'. That's just puttin' on style in another way. If you're makin' speeches in a campaign, talk the language the people talk. Don't try to show how the situation is by quotin' Shakespeare. Shakespeare was all right in his way, but he didn't know anything about Fifteenth District politics. If you know Latin and Greek and have a hankerin' to work them off on somebody, hire a stranger to come to your house and listen to you for a couple of hours; then go out and talk the language of the Fifteenth to the people. I know it's an awful temptation, the hankerin' to show off your learnin'. I've felt it myself, but I always resist it. I know the awful consequences."
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mcscajun Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-21-06 05:10 PM
Response to Original message
4. I'd prefer good old honest "Bossism" to the crap practiced by BushCo
Edited on Mon Aug-21-06 05:17 PM by mcscajun
I recall reading a book in the early 70s, Plunkitt of Tammany Hall: A Series of Very Plain Talks on Very Practical Politics in a college course on American Government. I love the item in Chapter 23 that explains the "plus side" of bossism for the man in the street.

As it was written in 1905, it is currently in the public domain. Moderators, please take note, as the usual copyright issues do not apply. :) Some excerpts follow. It's pretty clear that Spongehead Dumbass never read the book (oh yeah, silly me...he doesn't Read books at all...just the Cliff Notes)

PLUNKITT OF TAMMANY HALL

Chapter 1. Honest Graft and Dishonest Graft

EVERYBODY is talkin' these days about Tammany men growin' rich on graft, but nobody thinks of drawin' the distinction between honest graft and dishonest graft. There's all the difference in the world between the two.

(snip)

There's an honest graft, and I'm an example of how it works. I might sum up the whole thing by sayin': "I seen my opportunities and I took 'em."

Just let me explain by examples. My party's in power in the city, and it's goin' to undertake a lot of public improvements. Well, I'm tipped off, say, that they're going to lay out a new park at a certain place.

I see my opportunity and I take it. I go to that place and I buy up all the land I can in the neighborhood. Then the board of this or that makes its plan public, and there is a rush to get my land, which nobody cared particular for before.

Ain't it perfectly honest to charge a good price and make a profit on my investment and foresight? Of course, it is. Well, that's honest graft.

Chapter 8: the perils of self-interest in a leader

The question has been asked: Is a politician ever justified in going back on his district leader? I answer: "No; as long as the leader hustles around and gets all the jobs possible for his constituents." When the voters elect a man leader, they make a sort of a contract with him. They say, although it ain't written out: "We've put you here to look out for our Interests. You want to see that this district gets all the jobs that's comm' to it. Be faithful to us, and we'll be faithful to you."

The district leader promises and that makes a solemn contract. If he lives up to it, spends most of his time chasm' after places in the departments, picks up jobs from railroads and contractors for his followers, and shows himself in all ways a true statesman, then his followers are bound in honor to uphold him, just as they're bound to uphold the Constitution of the United States. But if he only
looks after his own interests
or shows no talent for scenting out jobs or ain't got the nerve to demand and get his share of the good things that are going', his followers may be absolved from their allegiance and they may up and swat him without bein' put down as political ingrates.

Chapter 12: I think Bush may have seen this chapter in its entirety, but certainly this paragraph:

Another thing that people won't stand for is showin' off your learnin'. That's just puttin' on style in another way. If you're makin' speeches in a campaign, talk the language the people talk. Don't try to show how the situation is by quotin' Shakespeare. Shakespeare was all right in his way, but he didn't know anything about Fifteenth District politics. If you know Latin and Greek and have a hankerin' to work them off on somebody, hire a stranger to come to your house and listen to you for a couple of hours; then go out and talk the language of the Fifteenth to the people. I know it's an awful temptation, the hankerin' to show off your learnin'. I've felt it myself, but I always resist it. I know the awful consequences.


Chapter 23: The "boss" defined:

No other politician in New York or elsewhere is exactly like the Tammany district leader or works as he does. As a rule, he has no business or occupation other than politics. He plays politics every day and night in the year, and his headquarters bears the inscription, "Never closed."

Everybody in the district knows him. Everybody knows where to find him, and nearly everybody goes to him for assistance of one sort or another, especially the poor of the tenements.

He is always obliging. He will go to the police courts to put in a good word for the "drunks and disorderlies" or pay their fines, if a good word is not effective. He will attend christenings, weddings, and funerals. He will feed the hungry and help bury the dead.

A philanthropist? Not at all. He is playing politics all the time.

Brought up in Tammany Hall, he has learned how to reach the hearts of the great mass of voters. He does not bother about reaching their heads. It is his belief that arguments and campaign literature have never gained votes.

He seeks direct contact with the people, does them good turns when he can, and relies on their not forgetting him on election day. His heart is always in his work, too, for his subsistence depends on its results.
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mcscajun Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-21-06 05:19 PM
Response to Original message
6. The piece that is missing is reciprocity.
The machine was more than just those at the top. As corrupt as Bossism was, it had benefits of sorts for folks at the bottom of the ladder whose votes were critical to the bosses survival.

There was a certain odd ethic to Tammany Hall; bizzare, yet ethical.
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