Urban Political Machine

According to Alan (1999), in the USA, a political machine refers to a party organization headed by a single boss or small autocratic group commands enough votes. Urban political machine therefore is the party organization in the urban areas. It took root in the 1800’s when there was a growing number of immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe (Judd & Kanter, 1998). The politician (boss) (Conlin, 2008) wanted votes to make him/her stay in power. The immigrants exchanged their allegiance to the political machine for their vote

In relation to why it was formed, Alan, (1999) states that the boss wanted people who would assist him/her to further his/ her political ambitions. The immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe in 1800’s were easier targets. Their votes were in exchange for their allegiance to the machine. This urban political machine assisted the society in coping with the great changes brought about by rapid urbanization. The urban government’s structure had the principle of power separation (Judd & Kanter, 1998) hence could not respond satisfactorily to the society’s needs (Alan, 1999).

This difficulty created a vacuum that the political machine filled. It also, as an extension of patronage, help people find jobs, paved streets and lighted them. Although they did it in self interest, it improved urban infrastructure thus benefitting the society. It also enhanced social mobility especially for immigrants as it treated them quite respectably in exchange for their votes (Conlin, 2008). The effectiveness of this machine is that it fitted the immigrants into the American mainstream. Today’s political machine still extends patronage in terms of the policies they have for the masses.

This just shows how it still accomplishes its goal today. In conclusion, graft became rampant since a vote could be bought for the sake of allegiance to a political machine. However, this formed a check on the excesses of the machines as allegiance could be shifted if there was dissatisfaction in the policies of the machine. Democracy was thus born.


Alan B. (1999), A Survey, American History: McGraw Hill, New York Conlin, J (2008): The American Past: Wadsworth Publishing Co, New York. Judd, D & Kantor, P (1998): The politics of Urban America: Allyn and Bacon, Boston.