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The Boss

By David Dayton McKean
This Web version, edited by GET NJ, COPYRIGHT 2003

The organization is kept in form by great rallies and parades, not only during election campaigns, but at other times as well. It is singularly successful at turning out vast crowds, keeping them in order, and keeping them interested. These rallies can be organized, not only for Jersey City, but the crowds can also be taken to Trenton or Sea Girt. In 1932, for instance, at least 150,000 people in busses, special trains, and private automobiles were taken to Sea Girt to hear Franklin D. Roosevelt. On that occasion Mayor Hague claimed that he got 250,000 people to Sea Girt and cited the number of busses and special trains – counted by his chief of police – to prove it. Whatever the exact number, the turnout was so astonishing that Mr. Roosevelt was reported to have said that `only my old friend, Mayor Hague, could have done it.' The political tactic of great parades and rallies, often said to be Hitler's contribution to the art of propaganda, was used in Jersey City with great success when Hitler was still an Austrian paperhanger.

The meetings are planned and organized with great care. For the `Americanization Day Parade and Demonstration' of June 6, 1938, posters were put up throughout the city with the Mayor's picture and the words, `Stand shoulder to shoulder with Mayor Hague and keep the Communists out.' Newspaper publicity is also used to whip up public expectations; long lists of famous personages who have been invited (but who often do not appear) are published. The second stage is the provision of transportation. As the Newark Evening News said of a rally in January, 1938, `Mayor Hague gave to the demonstration ... meticulous care.... The meeting was organized on a ward-to-ward basis and every available form of transportation was employed to get the crowd into the armory and adjacent streets.... Streets for blocks around were closed to ordinary traffic....' (Newark Evening News, January 7, 1938.) The parade to the rally is planned so that it will be as impressive as possible. On the night of June 6, 1938, `for two hours and ten minutes,' as the careful New York Times reported, `a parade of National Guard troops, representatives of A.F. of L. unions, civic, fraternal, and veterans' groups flowed through Journal Square while the Mayor smiled approvingly from a reviewing stand.... At least half of the persons who lined the mile-long parade route and filled the square waved American flags, while overhead aerial bombs exploded and fireworks lighted the sky....' (New York Times, June 7, 1938) The Times estimated that particular crowd at 150,000, or about half the population of Jersey City.

Psychologists, especially since Le Bon, have noted that individuals in crowds lose their sense of personal responsibility, tending to let the crowd leader think for them. They fuse their own feelings of individuality with the mass and respond semi-automatically to the flags, to the patriotic tunes, and to the speeches. Mayor Hague probably is not widely read in social psychology, but he knows what works; he knows that the populace, packed in vast numbers after a long parade tightly into a huge hall, is so hysterical with patriotism that there is no murmur of amusement at such signs as `Mayor Hague Appeals to You to Remain. Don't Leave – Your Presence Registers Your Americanism,' or `Time to Strike Against Red Invasion.' After the marching, flag-waving, and band-playing, they will cheer him lustily when he says: `This is the voice of the American people speaking; this is the American way of doing it. Nobody should ever hesitate to take their case to the people. The people of Jersey City are sustaining their mayor in opposing any invasion by these Reds.' (New York Times, June 7, 1938.) Recognizing the psychological value of these mass meetings, the organization has four or more a year; the technique is so far perfected that it is no longer necessary, as has been shown, for the Mayor to attend all of them in person.

The demonstrations probably do not cost a great amount of money, but how the necessary money is raised came out in the Mayor's testimony at the C.I.O. trial in Newark over an affair of some postcards, worded with a passage from one of his speeches, which had been sent out in large numbers to summon citizens to a rally.

`You wouldn't know' [he was asked] `who paid for those cards, would you?'

`Well, I don't know,' he replied. `You see, in an affair of that kind it was contributions, it was subscriptions, and the Chamber of Commerce and the veterans, and the different civic bodies and the different public bodies, if there is any there, would make contributions and pay for them in that manner. No one person paid for it.' (Transcript, p. 1063.)

On the Sunday preceding an election the Mayor gathers the party workers into an auditorium in Jersey City called the Grotto, and there makes them a speech of final instructions. `Three hundred and sixty-four days a year,' he often says, `you come to me wanting favors, wanting this thing and that thing. Now, one day in the year I come to you.' Touched by this appeal, they go forth and produce.

The election-day performance of the Hague organization is perfection itself. There are at present 658 election districts in Hudson County, though the number changes yearly. In each of these districts there have to be challengers and workers, the number depending upon the number of voters, 350 to 600, in each district. Cars and drivers are provided to bring voters to the polls and women to take care of children while their mothers go to vote. If there is one worker for every hundred registered voters – which is not excessive considering the proportional vote cast – 34,500 would be required in Hudson County.

Reports of the voting come into headquarters hour by hour through election day. If a district fails to report, or if the reported vote is not up to expectations, a telephone call is put through to find out what the trouble is. If the answer is not satisfactory, someone goes out to the district to investigate. or negligent; his career with the organization is at an end. Alas for any district leader who is discovered drunk A new man is instantly put in his place, and the collection of voters continues. A corps of lawyers, employed by the county committee, is on duty in headquarters from seven in the morning until eight at night to give legal advice, either by telephone or in person, to any voter or Democratic election officer.

The system unquestionably produces majorities. In 1938 the Republican candidate for the United States Senate received 68,245 votes in Hudson County, the Democratic candidate 196,365. Such overwhelming votes appear in every election, and year by year the margin of victory improves.


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