machine, political

An administration of elected public officials who use their influential positions to solidify and perpetuate the power of their political party, often through dubious means. Machine politicians make free use of the spoils system and patronage, rewarding loyal party supporters with appointed government jobs. Other machine methods include gerrymandering election districts; planting party representatives in neighborhoods; making deals with judges, lawyers, and other professionals; and “buying” votes by offering social services to potential voters. When machine politics was especially strong in the United States, during the latter half of the nineteenth century, politicians would go so far as to offer beer for votes and would embezzle large amounts of public money. Machines also dominated party caucuses and conventions, thereby affecting politics at all levels of government.

Note

Machines are usually associated with big-city politics.

Note

The most impressive political machine of the twentieth century was that of Mayor Richard Daley, in Chicago.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.