FDL Book Salon Welcomes Terry Golway, Tammany Hall and the Creation of Modern American Politics
We all know the story as it’s the one we were taught in grade school: The Tammany machine was the epitome of public corruption. It ruled New York City with an iron fist until good-guy reformers like Teddy Roosevelt rode to the rescue and broke its power.
What this official story leaves out is that Teddy’s distant cousin, Franklin D., wound up happily making common cause with Tammany Hall, and they not only backed his run for the White House but helped inspire his creation of the New Deal.
Terry Golway’s book Machine Made: Tammany Hall and the Creation of Modern American Politics tells the story behind the official story, much to the discomfort of mainstream reviewers who have both bought into the decades-long assault on the New Deal and the image of Tammany Hall as unalloyed evil. Unfortunately for the reviewers, Golway has the facts in his corner, and he marshals them to good and engaging effect.
Among the things you’ll learn from this very well researched book:
– Tammany served the needs of New York’s Irish immigrants, who started coming in great numbers to the city during the middle of the 19th century.
– Much if not most of the anti-Tammany sentiment was based on bigotry and political rivalry. The Anglo-Saxon Protestant ruling classes didn’t like seeing the Irish Catholics starting to flex their political muscle.
– The bosses of Tammany Hall backed many of the social and economic reforms we still value today despite decades of assault by the ruling classes. For instance, they were among the first to push for better worker protections in the wake of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire that claimed so many lives.
Golway’s book is a major contribution to (and correction of) the history of American politics and society. It deserves a wider, and fairer, hearing.