Rainbow's End: Irish-Americans and the Dilemmas of Urban Machine Politics, 1840-1985

Rainbow's End: Irish-Americans and the Dilemmas of Urban Machine Politics, 1840-1985

Rainbow's End: Irish-Americans and the Dilemmas of Urban Machine Politics, 1840-1985

Rainbow's End: Irish-Americans and the Dilemmas of Urban Machine Politics, 1840-1985

Synopsis

Unprecedented in its scope, Rainbow's End provides a bold new analysis of the emergence, growth, and decline of six classic Irish-American political machines in New York, Jersey City, Chicago, San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Albany. Combining the approaches of political economy and historical sociology, Erie examines a wide range of issues, including the relationship between city and state politics, the manner in which machines shaped ethnic and working-class politics, and the reasons why centralized party organizations failed to emerge in Boston and Philadelphia despite their large Irish populations. The book ends with a thorough discussion of the significance of machine politics for today's urban minorities.

Excerpt

San Diego, California, may strike the reader as a strange place to complete a book on the legendary Irish-American big-city political machines such as New York’s Tammany Hall or the Daley organization in Chicago. Yet America’s Finest City (as the local news commentators are so fond of saying) may not be so inappropriate a locale after all. Despite a reputation as a WASP bastion, the city has Irish political bloodlines. Mayor Maureen O’Connor is as Irish as they come. Former Mayor (and current U.S. Senator) Pete Wilson reportedly inherited his political talent from an Irish grandfather on the Chicago police force.

Underneath the veneer of nonpartisan reform, San Diego is also no stranger to the political corruption associated with the big-city eastern machines. In recent years a mayor, a city councilman, and a registrar of voters have resigned from office under shadow of an indictment or conviction.

In actuality, San Diego is but the final way station on a project that has enjoyed a long gestation period. My initial interest in Irish-American politics is a product of my own bloodlines. On my mother’s side of the family are O’Briens, O’Neills, McGinleys, and Tobins—public payrollers all. Grandfather O’Brien was an assistant county assessor; Great Grandfather O’Brien, a county sheriff. Great Uncle Billy O’Neill was an “expediter” for the Daley machine, smoothing relations between North Side businesses and the party organization. In a literal sense, this book was “in the blood.”

There have been other way stations and helpers. At UCLA, a dissertation on San Francisco ethnic and working-class politics in . . .

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