A Study in Boss Politics: William Lorimer of Chicago

By Joel Arthur Tarr | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
A Boss No Longer

WILLIAM LORIMER FOUND THE years from 1902 to 1904 a time of testing. He entered the period with his fortunes on the upswing. The state convention had endorsed Hopkins for senator, Dawes had retired from politics, and Governor Yates was Lorimer's ally. The period ended, however, with much of Lorimer's power dissipated. He had lost control over the Cook County committee, and a former ally, now turned enemy, occupied the governor's chair.

The explanation for Lorimer's decline lay in the nature of party organization. The Cook County organization, like most such bodies, rested upon subgroups that remained loyal to the boss in return for "side payments," usually in the form of patronage.1 Various factors, however, could result in the "spin-off" of a subgroup: the ambition of a factional head, for instance, who believed that his fortunes could be improved elsewhere, or the failure of the party to win elections while under a particular leader. In addition, the organization had alliances with business interests that supplied financial aid in return for legislation. At times, however, the needs of the political and economic proups conflicted. Support by the organization for certain legislation alienated voters, forcing subgroup leaders to break with the organization rather than risk defeat at the polls. These factors contributed to Lorimer's decline. One of his key allies, Charles S. Deneen, broke with the organization to run for governor, Lorimer's candidates lost important elections, and Lorimer again became involved in controversial traction legislation.

Also important was the resistance of Republican politicians and voters to boss leadership, a resistance accentuated because Lorimer

____________________
1
Eldersveld, Political Parties, 6-8.

-115-

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