The American Direct Primary: Party Institutionalization and Transformation in the North

By Alan Ware | Go to book overview

5
Reformers versus Urban Machines?

One common interpretation of the rapid rise of the direct primary is that it emanated from a conflict between reformers, usually based in cities and often antiparty in orientation, and urban political machines. On this view, as exemplified, for example, in the account presented by Steven J. Diner, Progressive legislation on institutional reform at the state level was an extension of these reformers' assaults on the power of urban bosses.1 Consequently, the introduction of the direct primary is usually portrayed as highly conflictual, with the major protagonists being antiparty reformers, on the one side, and the urban machines on the other. This view would seem to make sense. After all, it has already been seen that, at the end of the 1880s and in the 1890s, both in relation to the Australian Ballot and the legal regulation of party nominations, anxieties about the practices in the large urban areas were crucial in prompting legislation. But is this actually what happened?

If the account were accurate, it would be expected that such conflict would be most evident in the states containing the largest cities. It was there that the stakes would be highest for the party organizations, because of the benefits they could extract from control of local government; it was there also that the highest concentrations of the middle classes would be found, and it was these classes, on whom, relatively, the highest tax burdens tended to fall in the nineteenth century, that formed the main base of reform movements. To see whether that account is accurate, this chapter examines how direct primary legislation was enacted in the states containing the five largest cities in America in 1900 — Massachusetts (Boston), Pennsylvania (Philadelphia), Missouri (St. Louis), Illinois (Chicago), and New York (New York). If there really was conflict between reformers and urban machines over the introduction of the direct primary, it would

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1
Steven J. Diner, A Very Different Age: Americans of the Progressive Era, New York, Hill and Wang, 1998, pp. 208–9.

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The American Direct Primary: Party Institutionalization and Transformation in the North
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • Tables x
  • Abbreviations xi
  • Preface and Acknowledgments xiii
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • A - How the Direct Primary Arose *
  • 2 - The Catalytic Effect of Ballot Reform 31
  • 3 - Legal Control of Party Activity 57
  • 4 - The Spread of Direct Nominations 95
  • B - Why the Direct Primary Was Introduced 129
  • 5 - Reformers Versus Urban Machines? 131
  • 6 - The Impact of Party Competition 162
  • 7 - Explaining an “irrational” Reform 196
  • C - What Happened Next? 225
  • 8 - Reaction and Aftermath 227
  • 9 - Conclusions 255
  • Index 265
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