Talk:Political machine

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US specific[edit]

You make no difference between a political party and a political machine !!! Guys, include the difference in the definition. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 65.92.4.6 (talk) 02:18, 20 October 2010 (UTC) This should really not be a U.S.-specific article. Certainly relevant to Brazil, and Mexico's PRI was for years the ultimate political machine. And I'm sure it exists in dozens of other countries. -- Jmabel | Talk 07:00, Nov 26, 2004 (UTC)

Internationally, and especially in Latin America, the key word in looking for material on this is "clientelism" (Spanish "clientelismo"). -- Jmabel | Talk 07:07, Nov 26, 2004 (UTC)

What do you know, there is an es:clientelismo. Unfortunately, it is a bit vague and general, but there is probably some material worth adding. -- Jmabel | Talk 21:04, Nov 26, 2004 (UTC)

Clientism[edit]

Clientelism should have its own page. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 137.165.209.92 (talkcontribs) 13 Dec 2005

Why? How are the topics separable? -- Jmabel | Talk 07:49, 12 December 2005 (UTC)

Kwame Kilpatrick is not even close to having a political machine at all[edit]

Not yet, why is he even listed in the historical list??

Modern political machines[edit]

I have noticed the term "political machine" being used in a modern context to describe tight-knit party organizations in modern cities and suburbs. For example, Tom Delay is said to have a political machine in Texas. Should the use of the term in this context be discussed on this page? Someone might come to this page having seen the term in a newspaper or heard in on the radio or TV used to describe a present-day political structure. Maybe this should be addressed? Griot 17:51, 11 January 2006 (UTC)Griot

If it can be documented that Delay's machine is largely knitted together via patronage, then perhaps that belongs here. Otherwise, I'd disambiguate and considere it a different use of the term. PACs form an interesting middle ground here and should perhaps be mentioned: they are liable to bind elected officials to the controller of the PAC, but are not liable to bind voters. -- Jmabel | Talk 20:08, 12 January 2006 (UTC)

POV[edit]

Griot, it seems to me that your recent edit tilts this awfully far in favor of machine politics. It may have previously been too biased the other way.

It would be good if someone would seek a happy medium, preferably with cited praise and criticism of machine politics. - Jmabel | Talk 20:12, 12 January 2006 (UTC)

sources[edit]

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Parma[edit]

Why on earth do we have three external links about one race in Parma, Ohio, complete with a link caption telling us what to "notice"? This is not useful on a global scale for someone looking up political machine. In the worldwide scheme of things, Parma is pretty small change. I say move this stuff to the article on Parma, Ohio & make one link to that article from this one. - Jmabel | Talk 17:55, 25 May 2006 (UTC)

I deleted the Parma stuff but be warned, we have a local fellow who insists that the local newspaper called one minor Parma politician a "boss" and therefore it has to be in the encyclopedia. Please watch for this tool of the bosses. Rjensen
Naw, keep the Parma stuff. Seems rather relevant to most . . . :) --172.147.9.193 21:36, 29 May 2006 (UTC)
Parma is a joke--more exactly it is false. There is no evidence of a political machine, in the sense of many people working together over a period of years to control politics. It's just a local journalist's metaphor. Rjensen 21:44, 29 May 2006 (UTC)
It's more than just one journalist. Attend a council meeting and the independents and other politically active citizens will tell you that a machine does indeed exist and it's relevant as a side note to Cleveland in that it's alleged leader (Mason) is the COUNTY prosecutor. And by the standards of many people working together, yes, indeed the elite democrats in Parma have worked together to control the city. Best, --172.132.20.92 02:24, 30 May 2006 (UTC)
It has to last 25 years to get included as a machine. Rjensen 02:29, 30 May 2006 (UTC)
Parma's machine has lasted that long . . .--64.12.116.131 13:33, 30 May 2006 (UTC)
Look, the little town I came from had a (Republican) political machine, too, but who cares? This doesn't belong in an encyclopedia. - Jmabel | Talk 16:42, 11 June 2006 (UTC)
Actually, I think something could be said about small towns even having political machines to show that the phenomenon permeates all levels of American government, i.e. that national, state, and local governments experiences forms of corruption. If the approach is presented in that fashion, then I think I fair compromise could be reached. So, perhaps a short paragraph noting that "Such smaller communities as Parma, Ohio and Freeport, New York also feature what might be classified as political machines, although these organizations do not have the power and influence of the more larger boss networks listed in this article." Surely, a true encyclopedia would include something to that effect? --24.154.173.243 16:40, 12 June 2006 (UTC)
Offhand, I'm not currently interested in trying to do the research to get citations for Freeport's 1950s-1970s machine politics; I'm on the opposite side of the country (though if I'm back there some time, it might be interesting to research it at the library or historical museum). But, in general, yes, this would be a good way to approach it: mention it as a phenomenon, give perhaps three well-documented examples. In each case, this article should give a few relevant citations as notes, and there should be a link to a Wikipedia article on the particular town, which is where the story should really be told. Probably at least one should come from the Deep South, because small-town machine politics is pretty endemic there. - Jmabel | Talk 22:57, 23 June 2006 (UTC)
Okay, the basis is laid. Best, --172.148.9.12 19:44, 25 June 2006 (UTC)
WTF? I was inviting you to do some citably research, not to put this in there without documenting this. I have no idea if this is true of Freeport today, as you now assert. Are you just extrapolating from my talk page remark and considering that "good enough" for an encyclopedia? - Jmabel | Talk 02:14, 3 July 2006 (UTC)
Jmabel's word is good enough for me! If this dude says Freeport had a machine, why doubt him? Cheers, (a part Englishman . . .)--172.165.100.144 14:16, 8 July 2006 (UTC)
Guy, my remark on a talk page is not a citeable source. And my saying something was the case 30 years ago is certainly not a source for it being true today. - Jmabel | Talk 05:58, 14 July 2006 (UTC)
Partner, so did Freeport have a machine or not? Was that mere conjecture? Stay safe! --172.169.35.76 20:30, 18 July 2006 (UTC)
Did in the 1950s-1970s (but still should be cited for). May or may not now, I have no idea, I've visited maybe twice in the last decade. - Jmabel | Talk 17:10, 23 July 2006 (UTC)
For the umpteenth time: my talk page remarks are not a citable source on Freeport. I haven't put anything about this in the article precisely because I don't have adequate citation and I am (to say the least) uncomfortable that someone else is putting it in based on nothing but my talk page remark. - Jmabel | Talk 04:56, 7 August 2006 (UTC)
As long as it says "possibly" Freeport, I think it's valid. Everyone from Parma at least knows about the machine their, which they usually call the Good Old Boys. If you go to a council meeting, Martin Drabek, a political activist mentioned Sun News and Plain Dealer articles from time to time, and his wife amongst others love to spill the beans on this network. Deb Lime focused part of her failed mayoral campaign as being against Mason's machine and his Germana-DePiero puppets. There was also some incident involving former councilman Stover called Filegate that added to Parma's political scandals, although this matter would probably be better used on the actual Parma page. Keep it smooth!--140.254.69.123 17:16, 8 August 2006 (UTC
(left)It's still unsourced. If it receives no source in a reasonable time, I will remove it, per Wikipedia:Verifiability. The threshold for inclusion is verifiability, not truth. Septentrionalis 18:19, 8 August 2006 (UTC)
Various articles do support the possible existence of a machine in Parma, as found on Wikipedia's article for Parma. If Freeport is the only matter suspect, why delete the whole paragraph? Plus, someone other than the supporters of the inclusion of Parma's machine contributed the part of the paragraph about machines in the American South? I can understand removing what is not verifiable, but it just doesn't feel right to delete everything in a paragraph when other parts of the paragraph do make sense and have been contributed by more than just one individual. Regards, --172.145.222.96 20:35, 13 August 2006 (UTC)
I wholeheartedly agree. Why detract the whole statement when only part is inaccurate? You don't kill a man if he's got a bad hand, n'est-ce pas? Anyway, smooth it shall be, can we at least agree at that much?--140.254.69.123 17:28, 15 August 2006 (UTC)

"Irresponsible"[edit]

This is the most irresponsible article I have ever found on wikipedia. Please post some sources for this machine theory. There are hundreds of books written on clientelism, several of which sit on my shelf, and none of them mention any nonsense about a "political machine." I have been a student of political science, studying clientelistic relationships, for many years, and I have never heard the concept "political machine" linked to the peer-reviewed scholarly work out there on clientelism. Admittedly, I haven't read everything on the topic, so if someone could just please post a few sources on this concept, I will gladly go out and read them and if necessary reconcile my present doubts. I will also look into the matter on my own. Otherwise, I am going to have to insist on the creation of a separate page for clientelism, and I will do it myself. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by 66.57.48.235 (talkcontribs) 24 September 2006.

I believe that at one time these were two separate articles and were merged. At the time, no one raised any objections. I don't really see what the distinction between the two would be, but if you have material to bring forward to indicate a distinction, I would welcome it. If, however, the only distinction is that writers about Latin America tend to call it "clientelism" and writers about the U.S. and Canada tend to call it a "political machine", then that strikes me as a distinction without a difference. - Jmabel | Talk 20:11, 26 September 2006 (UTC)

Sloppy article[edit]

While some of this is quite accurate, the article is way under-cited (e.g. who says the Irish uniquely benefitted and other immigrant groups did not?), and many of the things that do have citation are sloppily cited (e.g. books mentioned, but no page numbers for the relevant passages). Also, some of it is so poorly worded I can't make out what it means to say: I cannot decipher "this view often coincided with a lack of period alternatives."

This could be greatly improved by someone willing to put some time into it. - Jmabel | Talk 06:01, 1 April 2007 (UTC)

The Political Machine (game)[edit]

Why isn't an option to the Political Machine (game) here. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 70.121.184.19 (talk) 21:38, 10 February 2008 (UTC)

The Clinton Machine[edit]

What about the political machine of Mr. and Mrs. Clinton? You often hear them talk of the Clinton Machine; I'm sure it deserves a mention. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 68.37.116.3 (talk) 18:26, 12 May 2008 (UTC)

Agreed. I'll do some research and see what I can put together. -- False Prophet (talk) 02:37, 27 May 2008 (UTC)


Fighting Bob[edit]

I have an issue with Robert M. La Follette, Sr. being on this list. If you have done any research on him, you will learn that he fought the political machine, and was an enemy of Boss politics. If no one can provide a rationale reason as to why he belongs here, I'll remove him Thursday (UTC). -- False Prophet (talk) 02:37, 27 May 2008 (UTC)

Totally disputed[edit]

"political machine" and "machine politics" are simply pejorative labels. To say anyone falls into this category is simply POV - all we could do is say that someone was once accused it and no more. The article needs substantial rewriting to make it neutral.--Scott MacDonald (talk) 15:15, 30 November 2008 (UTC)

Yes, Minister[edit]

Is actually an extended play on the powers of bureaucrats, and has no relationship with "political machine" as found in the US. FWIW, Ben Franklin set up one of the first political machines in the US -- the "Junto" in Philadelphia. Collect (talk) 19:05, 5 December 2008 (UTC)

Other sources[edit]

  • The Political Machine of New York City, Roy V. Peel, The American Political Science Review, Vol. 27, No. 4 (Aug., 1933), pp. 611-618 Published by: American Political Science Association (|link)
  • The Urban Bureaucracy and the Chicago Political Machine: Who Gets What and the Limits to Political Control Kenneth R. Mladenka The American Political Science Review, Vol. 74, No. 4 (Dec., 1980), pp. 991-998 Published by: American Political Science Association (link)
  • The Social Bases of an Urban Political Machine: The Case of Palermo Judith Chubb Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 96, No. 1 (Spring, 1981), pp. 107-125, Published by: The Academy of Political Science (link)
  • Patrons and Clients, Jobs and Machines: A Case Study of the Uses of Patronage Michael Johnston The American Political Science Review, Vol. 73, No. 2 (Jun., 1979), pp. 385-398 Published by: American Political Science Association (link)

Retrieved from these search results. Avruch T 22:06, 5 December 2008 (UTC)

There were some citations listed as further reading in the article, as well. Uncle G (talk) 14:39, 6 December 2008 (UTC)

You're right - I'll have to see, for the sake of my curiosity, if those were listed on the page when the AfD was posted. The two "further reading" sections actually overlap. Lot's of sources available to turn this into a high quality article, anyway. Avruch T 16:00, 6 December 2008 (UTC)

The problems with this article[edit]

Noroton's proposed version[edit]

I thought this rewrite of the top section, adding a new section, "Definition", would be noncontroversial because it seemed to meet the objections previously made. It adds sourcing, removes some comments I didn't see reflected in sources, and I tried not to state anything controversial (or where I thought there would be objetions). Any statements in the first paragraph are either too commonsensical to bother sourcing or have sources further down. Please look at the Encyclopedia Britannica article linked to in the footnotes and see the quotes from the Safire source. I don't understand in the "The problems with this article" discussion, below, where the continuing objections aren't already answered here.

A political machine (often just "machine") is a disciplined political organization in which an authoritative boss or small group commands the support of a corps of supporters (usually campaign workers), who receive rewards for their efforts. Although these elements are common to most political parties and organizations, they are essential to political machines, which rely on hierarchy and rewards for political power. Machines sometimes have a political boss, often rely on patronage, the spoils system, "behind-the-scenes" control, and longstanding political ties within the structure of a representative democracy. Machines typically are organized on a permanent basis instead of for a single election or event. The phrase is a pejorative term in the United States.
Although the term "political machine" dates back to the 19th century in the United States, where such organizations have existed in some municipalities and states since the 18th century, similar machines have been described in [[Latin America, where the system has been called (under the name clientelism or political clientelism), especially in rural areas, and also in some African states and other emerging democracies, like postcommunist Eastern European countries. 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.[1] In Japan, the word jiban (literally "base" or "foundation") is the word used for political machine,[2] In the ancient Roman Republic, a similar patronage system existed.[citation needed]
Definition
Encyclopaedia Britannica defines "political machine" as, "in U.S. politics, a party organization, headed by a single boss or small autocratic group, that commands enough votes to maintain political and administrative control of a city, county, or state."[3] William Safire, in his Safire's Political Dictionary, defines "machine politics" as "the election of officials and the passage of legislation through the power of an organization created for political action."
Hierarchy and discipline are hallmarks of political machines. "It generally means strict organization", according to Safire. He quoted Edward Flynn, a Bronx County Democratic leader during the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt, who wrote "[...] the so-called 'independent' voter is foolish to assume that a political machine is run solely on good will, or patronage. For it is not only a machine; it is an army. And in any organization as in any army, there must be discipline."[2]
Political patronage, while often associated with political machines, is not essential to the definition for either Safire or Britannica.[2]
The phrase is considered derogatory "because it suggests that the interest of the organization are placed before those of the general public", according to Safire. Machines are criticized as undemocratic and inevitably encouraging corruption.[2]
References
  1. ^ American Journey, 2005
  2. ^ a b c d Safire, William, Safire's Political Dictionary, pp 391-392, "Machine politics" article, first edition, 1978 (although the book existed in an earlier version titled "The New Language of Politics"), Random House
  3. ^ "Political machine" article, Encyclopaedia Britannica website, retrieved December 6, 2008

Discussion of objections to this article[edit]

OK, let me lay out where I'm coming from. "Political machine", I think we agree is a pejorative term. It is a label that some people have applied to certain politicians and political infrastructures at varying times. We can perhaps record a) what the term generally implies by those who use it (requires sources) b) notable instances of its use and regimes to which it has often been applied.

What we must not do is actually call any particular regime a "political machine" - that would be POV and labelling. I realise that there are sources on "political machines", but ultimately there are simply authors discussing particular organisations, or trends within a number of administrations under the title. So we can say "Bob Smith called the administration of mayor x, a political machine, because according to Smith it...". But ultimately that's only notable if Smith is notable, and his critique is an important example of the use of the term.

Broadly this article must be an article about the term, and its application and NOT about the administrations to which it has been applied. It isn't so much a concept as a label applied to imply certain things.

I'm also unhappy with us saying things like "political machines exist elsewhere although they are called different things". If the term isn't being used of those other regimes, then it is irrelevant. We could only record that similar pejorative terms might exist, but we shouldn't more from there to imply that regimes called these other things are "political machines", because then we are certainly into POV. It isn't going to be enough to reference any accusations that something is a political regime, we need to directly attribute the accusations. Anyway, just some thoughts.--Scott Mac (Doc) 17:38, 6 December 2008 (UTC)

I'm not convinced that the term falls on the POV/opinion side of WP:ASF. It seems as if it could have objective qualification criteria as a form of organization distinct from any other. The sources certainly seem to discuss "political machine" as a valid concept rather than term of abuse. For these reasons I cannot support the approach you recommend, unless you can show that your perception is shared by a significant proportion of the reliable sources which cover this topic. Skomorokh 17:45, 6 December 2008 (UTC)
The sources are describing administrations and applying a label. No?--Scott Mac (Doc) 17:47, 6 December 2008 (UTC)
Perhaps (though it's more accurate to say that it's electoral campaign mechanisms that are being labeled), but that says nothing more about neutrality than to say that the term "executive branch" is applied to the POTUS and his cabinet. All nouns are "labels", but that does not make them pejorative. Skomorokh 17:52, 6 December 2008 (UTC)
"executive branch" is objective term, and would also be used comfortably as a self-reference. "political machine" is value judgement and subjective. Can you give me any instance of anyone self-describing as being involved in a "political machine" or using the term in a positive way? Look, I can provide some qualified sources stating that Obama is a "machine politician" and has been involved in "political machines". Now, would you be happy if this article stated that Obama was part of a political machine, and gave that as a fact rather than someone's opinion?--Scott Mac (Doc) 17:55, 6 December 2008 (UTC)
Terms can be objective and have negative connotations without being pejorative; to describe a piece of fruit as "rotten" is to make a claim which is falsifiable by comparing the actual state of the object to the objective biological criteria governing what constitutes "rotten" fruit. For a term to be pejorative, its user must intend its use to disparage its object. No I would not be happy with the Obama article describing him that way as fact, but only because it is my impresssion that it is only a minority of sources who consider Obama as a patron of political machines in a definitive way. But our neutrality policy explains very clearly when referenced claims ought to be treated as opinion and when they ought to be treated as fact, and the burden is on the disputant. Skomorokh 18:13, 6 December 2008 (UTC)
If it is an objective term, then either he is or he isn't. If I can find some good sources to say he is, then we can put him in the article here.--Scott Mac (Doc) 18:28, 6 December 2008 (UTC)

I disagree that "political machine" is anywhere near as pejorative as some would claim. It is synomymous with "political organization" over most of the US, with the imputation that the organization is as efficient as a "machine." It does not necessarily imply corruption to be sure. Wordnet states: "a group that controls the activities of a political party; 'he was endorsed by the Democratic machine.'" See alao The Yale Review [1] . And several thousand more refs. Some places even had a "dual machine" where both major parties were in collusion. Collect (talk) 18:20, 6 December 2008 (UTC)

Yes, that's the problem. There is no one definition of this. It is totally subjective. Some people are certainly using it to imply corruption and nepotism (which would make it pejorative) others are not. You need to have a discussion with Skomorokh above.--Scott Mac (Doc) 18:28, 6 December 2008 (UTC)
I have known "machine" politicians -- many. Corruption is as common for them as for any other politicians. If the article defines it as a term for a "well-run political organization" than there should be no need to use the word "pejorative." In the days of patronage being everything, corruption was, of course, a big problem. Blame that on Andrew Jackson and the "spoils system." Collect (talk) 18:38, 6 December 2008 (UTC)
Britanica says it carries a pejorative meaning. I have provided the citation requested.--Scott Mac (Doc) 19:03, 6 December 2008 (UTC)
Why is having a pejorative meaning objectionable? Gang rape, Political corruption, Terrorism and Genocide all have pejorative/derogatory meanings. The Safire and Britannica sources meet your objtection to there being no definition of this. What am I not understanding here? -- Noroton (talk) 19:23, 6 December 2008 (UTC)
(ec with SM) I think either some or all of the objections Scott has to the article are met by the quotes I have from William Safire's book and from the Encyclopedia Britannica article linked in the footnotes and at the External links section of the article. For convenience, I just added my proposed text above this discussion. Again, please look at the Encyclopedia Britannica article and see the way they approach this. As Avruch says just below, we follow sources here, and there are top-notch sources for this. I'm certain that any introductory political science textbook would discuss the phenomenon and we know it's discussed by numerous academic sources. Scott, I'm unfamiliar with politics in the U.K. Perhaps the term isn't used there, or I suppose it's possible the phenomenon doesn't exist there (it doesn't exist in most places in the U.S.). Collect, I'd be interested to see what you think of the Britannica article. Here's a link to it: [2] Again, I think the sourcing we have is already adequate, but we'd benefit greatly from more and better political science sources. -- Noroton (talk) 19:19, 6 December 2008 (UTC)

Honestly, this is like saying "We can't call the United States a democracy - we can only report that some people call it a democracy, because anything else isn't neutral." There are a lot of descriptive terms in political science that imply something about the system being described - not all of those implications are positive, but that doesn't mean we can't use the terms. The "political machine" is a common, perhaps the most common, system for maintaining political control in the history of governance. Obviously the term isn't that old, and we're using it in a more narrow sense here - but the fact is that describing a mechanism of political power is not pejorative of itself. These "authors" you mention are some of the most respected scholars of political science, their books and articles are published by academic journals and universities. They're not people off the street saying "Oi, that party is practically a machine!" They're experts, and we should describe "political machine" according to how they describe it. Avruch T 18:41, 6 December 2008 (UTC)

According to Safire, the term started becoming widespread after the U.S. Civil War. (Just prior to that, in 1857, Tammany Hall apparently took over politics in New York City (at least according to one source I read), and that may have something to do with it). Tammany Hall and machine politics go back at least to the time of the Alexander Hamilton / Aaron Burr rivalry. Avruch, you're absolutely right: this whole discussion should depend on what we find in sources. If they define it as something that exists and if we can meet all policy objections, that should settle it. It's a good-enough subject for Encyclopaedia Britannica (once more, the link: [3]) -- Noroton (talk) 19:19, 6 December 2008 (UTC)
Note that the EB does not even mention the word "pejorative" until after corrupt examples. And then only says it may have a "pejorative sense." RHD has the political meaning, and does not call it pejorative. AHD has the political meaning, and does not all it pejorative. Wordnet ditto. M-W ditto. Not a single one calls the usage "pejorative." None. (signed late) Collect (talk) 23:50, 6 December 2008 (UTC)

(ec with someone) Broadly this article must be an article about the term, and its application and NOT about the administrations to which it has been applied.(Scott Mac (Doc) 17:38, 6 Dec) Well, you have to describe examples of it in order to cover the subject. The two most famous political machines in the U.S. were Tammany Hall (late 18th century to early/mid 20th century) and Chicago, especially under the first Mayor Daley. Nearly all of the most famous people involved in political machines are dead. The idea that political machines are never defended is not correct. I think it's pretty universally acknowledged as something ignoble, but there are serious defenders of the existence of political machines as relatively efficient providers of government services (the idea is that, for instance, the ward bosses in Chicago are accountable to their political bosses and therefore will provide you, the common citizen, with good municipal services in exchange for your support). Again, sources can show all this, so perhaps providing sources is a more efficient way to reply here.

I disagree that the article must be about the term, not the phenomenon. Safire, a word columnist for the New York Times and former polticial columnist, simply states that the Japanese term is the word for political machine in that country. I've just been flipping through Party Politics in the Age of Caesar by Lily Ross Taylor, and her description of the patron-client system in the Roman Republic is so close to the Britannica and Safire definitions that it appears to be the same thing, but I'll look into it further before proposing to add something along those lines. We can still include information about systems that are either identical or related, and let sourcing decide which it is. -- Noroton (talk) 19:55, 6 December 2008 (UTC)

It turns out much of the Ross book is online, and she has a WP article (now linked above). See chapters 1-4 [4] -- Noroton (talk) 16:04, 7 December 2008 (UTC)

I mentioned Safire at the AFD discussion not only because xyr entry for "machine politics" is in the style of an encyclopaedia article, but also because it gives a fair guide to neutrality as well. I'm reading the 2008 edition, and I don't know what the 1978 edition says, but the 2008 edition, in the penultimate paragraph, presents a pretty-much neutral account of two disparate views, one pejorative one not, on what political machines are. (It's the paragraph that has "To the reformer […] to a regular […].", for reference.) Uncle G (talk) 12:01, 7 December 2008 (UTC)

Yes, that is in the '78 edition and would work well for the article. It also illustrates how being a "political machine" is one of those subjects that's vague at the borders because it really depends on how much the organization relies on spoils and the like to succeed (to some extent, nearly every political organization does). The ideal source would be a widely respected political science source with a good definition. There are a lot of hits in Google Books in which "political machine" is used to describe politics in Japan, ancient Rome and Latin America (although I suspect local cultures and conditions made these somewhat different than in the U.S. In Rome, help in the courts was apparently an important aspect, for instance). In one, Sallust was called Caesar's "henchman", and I saw "ward healer" and "political boss" elsewhere. (Obviously, some of that language is not meant to be exact.) Before the current meaning gelled, the term was used by numerous sources to simply mean "political system". Gibbons uses it that way, once, in Decline and Fall. If I'm able to get to a library ths week, I'll try to find some good poli-sci sources, but I'd be happy to see others add them. -- Noroton (talk) 16:04, 7 December 2008 (UTC)
  • Comment Political machine may have started as a pejorative phrase but I've heard it used to simply describe the organization of a candidate or party or effort as well - "we have a strong political machine". It may be helpful to build or clear the history up t show how it was first employed and shifts in usage over time. -- Banjeboi 01:17, 8 December 2008 (UTC)
I've been reading a chapter about political machines The Politics of American Cities: Private Power and Public Policy, a self-described textbook by Dennis R. Judd, some kind of academic at the University of Denver (1979). The subject is enormous, and he cites loads of examples from around the U.S. from the late 19th C. to early 20th C. He provides a definition and a lot of information on the typical workings of machines, with example after example. There are subchapters on the positive and negative aspects of machines, and a large number of colorful examples. Beyond the Melting Pot by Daniel Moynihan and Nathan Glazer also discuss the Tammany political machine extsnsively, especially how the Irish dominated it and how that influenced politics (most major urban political machines were Irish-controlled). James Bryce's The American Commonwealth, a landmark book, has a chapter on the Tweed Ring. What a subject. -- Noroton (talk) 02:56, 8 December 2008 (UTC)