Political Clubs in Michigan Election Campaigns: A Comparison of the Pingree and Griffin Campaigns

By Sych, Lawrence | Michigan Academician, Summer 2002 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Political Clubs in Michigan Election Campaigns: A Comparison of the Pingree and Griffin Campaigns


Sych, Lawrence, Michigan Academician


INTRODUCTION

This paper compares the use of candidate-centered political clubs in the campaigns of Hazen S. Pingree and Robert P. Griffin. Locally organized Republican Party clubs to advance national party interests in the 1888 elections were introduced by James S. Clarkson. In Michigan, Detroit reform mayor and gubernatorial candidate Hazen S. Pingree transformed the political party club into a candidate-centered organization in 1896. Pingree used local Pingree Gubernatorial Republican Clubs to mobilize his supporters, defeat his party's political machine, and capture the gubernatorial nomination. Later statewide candidates emulated Pingree's methods by creating similar candidate-centered (as opposed to party-centered) clubs. More recently, Republican Congressman and U.S. Senator Robert P. Griffin used "Griffin Clubs" to recruit and mobilize supporters to help his nomination and general election campaigns, the last in 1978. The findings presented here show that these candidate-centered political clubs are remarkably simi lar in organization and activity over time. Club functions, moreover, are not supplanted by the recent use of mass media campaigns. However, clubs became more important as a grassroots fundraising mechanism after campaign finance reforms in the early 1970s.

PARTY MACHINES AND POLITICAL CLUBS

In the late nineteenth century, political party organizations, often called "machines," were thought to be at their pinnacle of strength. (1) Michigan's Republican Party, under the leadership of U. S. Senator James McMillan, was typical of such machines. It was organized in a hierarchical structure of closely allied local party organizations glued together by the promise and distribution of patronage. McMillan, who also chaired the state Republican Party, used postmaster and customs office jobs to extend his influence throughout Michigan as these were plentiful in both the Upper and Lower Peninsulas. Locally elected officials, in turn, dominated their own party machines using local patronage appointments. (2) To acquire campaign money, state party machines often assessed candidates a "contribution", the amount of which varied by office. In 1894, McMillan explained to the new state party chairman, "the Senators were assessed $1,000 each, the Congressmen $500 each, the Governor $1,000 and each of the State Offi cers according to the salary of the office. Then a certain sum has always been collected from the warden and officers of the prisons and from private individuals like (Russell A.) Alger, yourself and other men throughout the State who are able to chip in." (3) As the campaign approached, the party hired but a few state headquarters workers and relied on patronage office holders to provide the labor for polling voters and mobilizing them for the general election. Party workers focused most of their energy toward mobilizing voters in the final weeks of the campaign during October and November. This pattern of short campaigns with intense activity by party workers also characterized the party's nomination processes that consisted of a complex system of local caucuses and county and state conventions.

Political party control over nominations illustrates the strength and stability of its machine-like character. Quietly held caucus elections with low voter turnout insulated the machine from partisan reformers and dissidents. (4) The patronage jobholder mustered select loyal partisans to vote for candidates anointed by state, regional and local party leaders. Employers often brought their employees to the caucus and supervised their voting. (5) Moreover, local party leaders scheduled caucuses at times and places in the interest of limiting rank and file participation. In sum, party leaders conducted caucuses in ways that strengthened their control over candidates.

Partisans began to form political clubs during the latter half of the nineteenth century. In Detroit, Republicans formed the Michigan Club and the Alger Club, named in honor of Michigan Civil War general Russell A.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Political Clubs in Michigan Election Campaigns: A Comparison of the Pingree and Griffin Campaigns
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?