Loyalty in Politics

Good Government Is Good Politics

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As mayor of Chicago and chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party, Daley controlled the hiring and firing of thousands of city and county employees. For some positions, proven loyalty to the Democratic Party was necessary for both getting and keeping a job. This system, in which employees were expected to vote and work for the Democratic Party, was legal, and supporters argued that it engendered hard work and loyalty to the city. However, in 1969, Michael Shakman, a candidate to the Illinois Constitutional Convention, filled a lawsuit that successfully challenged politically influenced personnel decisions.

This flyer informs precinct captains of their responsibilities, 1954. RJD_02_01_0022_0009_003

This flyer informs precinct captains of their responsibilities, 1954. RJD_02_01_0022_0009_003

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Former President Jimmy Carter argues that political hiring helped the city find good workers. Click on image to play video.

Video: Jimmy Carter, President of the United States 1977-1981, interview excerpt, October 17, 2014

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Richard J. Daley speaking at 47th Ward rally, ca. 1971. Photo: Bud Bertog. RJD_04_01_0033_0010_001

Richard J. Daley speaking at 47th Ward rally, ca. 1971. Photo: Bud Bertog. RJD_04_01_0033_0010_001

He’d go out to his ward meetings on Saturday mornings; he’d have two hundred precinct captains at 37th and Halsted at the 11th Ward. And we’d pull up on the corner there. And the precinct captains would come up and say “Mr. Mayor, can you help Joe? His son needs a job.” And the mayor would say, “Have him call so and so. We’d be glad to help him out.”

Vince Gavin, Security Chief for Richard J. Daley, interview excerpt, July 19, 2014

 

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Former President Jimmy Carter explains that loyalty in politics ensured smooth running for city services. Click on image to play video.

Video: Jimmy Carter, President of the United States 1977-1981, interview excerpt, October 17, 2014

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He wanted to run the show. Of course, the organizations were strong then. We had a patronage system.

Burton Natarus, interview excerpt, June 16, 2010

Letter from "A Democratic Precinct Captain," September 1967. RJD_01_01_0058_0004_015

Letter from “A Democratic Precinct Captain,” September 1967. RJD_01_01_0058_0004_015

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Tom Donovan, Administrative Assistant to Richard J. Daley, interview excerpt, April 2, 2009

 

List of 50th ward precinct captains and where they were employed, 1959

List of 50th ward precinct captains and where they were employed, February 24, 1959. RJD_02_01_0034_0027_002

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Chicago’s former corporation counsel reflects on how loyalty in politics helped immigrants. Click on image to play video.

Video: Ray Simon, Corporation Counsel City of Chicago 1965-1969, interview excerpt, June 30, 2010

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Now keep in mind, at that time I hadn’t even started law school yet. I was walking out. And in great Chicago political style, as I was walking away ready to become a precinct captain, Mr. Huppert said, “And Art, do a good job. I’ll make you a judge.”

Arthur Berman, Illinois Legislator, interview excerpt, October 8, 2003

After serving as a precinct captain, Arthur Berman ran and won election as a state representative in 1969 at the age of twenty. This photo shows him outside his legislative office in Evanston, 1976. RJD_04_01_0037_0004_001

After serving as a precinct captain, Arthur Berman ran and won election as a state representative in 1969 at the age of twenty. This photo shows him outside his legislative office in Evanston, 1976. RJD_04_01_0037_0004_001

 

He knew that I wasn’t a registered Democrat. And this was probably a good year or so that I’d been working there. He’d approved my hiring and all that. It never got into anything political. It’s amazing.

Marshall Suloway, Chief Engineer City of Chicago, interview excerpt, August 11, 2003

 

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Truck traveling through the gate of the Union Stock Yard, 1972. RJD_04_01_0033_0014_002

Truck traveling through the gate of the Union Stock Yard, 1972. RJD_04_01_0033_0014_002

I do remember specifically one case of a family over on 51st Street in the Back of the Yards, where the only breadwinner in the family was a worker in the stockyards, and he cut his hand off on a saw in a meatpacking plant. I called Tom Donovan and within a couple of days a brother in the family was working for the city and keeping that little family together. But there are thousands of those stories. It was just a different time and a different city. I know there’s a lot of criticism about the abuses of the political patronage system, but in truth there were a lot of families that benefited from the ability to access work of some kind.

Ed Burke, Alderman, interview excerpt, August 6, 2014

 

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 A U.S. Senator reflects on loyalty in politics. Click on image to play video.

Video: Richard Durbin, United States Senator, interview excerpt, September 8, 2014

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By the late 1970s, new federal and state laws and court decisions had curtailed the patronage system. But one colleague, looking back on the era, believed that such revisions worked best when balanced against the need for responsive government. Click on image to play video.

Video: Charles Pounian, Director of Personnel City of Chicago 1960-1985, interview excerpt, September 3, 2003

Notice informing city employees that as a result of the Shakman decree, there are no longer any political requirements for their jobs. RJD_01_01_0145_0008_004

Notice informing city employees that as a result of the Shakman decree, there are no longer any political requirements for their jobs. RJD_01_01_0145_0008_004