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The Boss

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

This book challenges some of these assumptions. Jersey City offers to the student of American life a boss as powerful and ruthless as any that New York or Chicago ever had. The Hague organization, far from being injured by the New Deal, has flourished under it, been preserved by it. The machine has shown itself sufficiently adaptable to make necessary adjustments to a national leadership which has very different avowed objectives. No reawakening of civic consciousness can take place, moreover, against a political group which, like the one in Jersey City, controls newspapers and buys off or intimidates opposition leaders. When no effective criticism can be organized, the normal reaction to public corruption is frustrated, and a political machine can go to any length it may desire. In doing so it may, without any effective local opposition, nullify those civil rights upon which Americans pride themselves.

It is too commonly assumed that the methods by which the totalitarian regimes have maintained themselves in power have no American counterparts. Frank Hague has not only used many of their methods with success, but he used them twenty years ago, so that a certain political originality and inventiveness must be attributed to him. These devices are not, however, totally new, but are rather variants of old principles and practices, as the brief quotations beginning each chapter, taken from The Prince, written by that sixteenth-century master of practical politics, Niccolo Machiavelli, will show. The Hague organization, alone among American city machines, has systematically and successfully utilized the methods of terrorism, the infiltration of groups and associations, the suppression of criticism, and the hierarchical principle of leadership that have characterized the fascist regimes in Europe. It has been shown in Jersey City that these devices are not incompatible with American party politics.


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