From Tammany Hall to the election of David Dinkins, To Be Mayor of New York offers insights into the effect of ethnic competition on the demise of urban political machines.
Beginning with a colorful assessment of New York City's Tammany Hall as it existed in the late nineteenth century, McNickle traces the effect of the arrival of large numbers of Jewish and Italian immigrants -and later black and Puerto Rican migrants- on the Irish-dominated political machine. He focuses on the political passage of Jewish immigrants through the various small parties unique to New York -socialist, American Labor, and Liberal. Later he describes their attraction to various factions of the traditional Democratic and Republican parties. He spotlights the willingness of large numbers of Jewish voters to cast ballots for third-party candidates on the basis of their shared philosophical commitments and political priorities.
McNickle then examines mayoral campaigns between 1945, the end of the LaGuardia era, and 1989, during which the Irish receded and Jews and later African-Americans emerged as the most important ethnic groups in local politics. To Be Mayor of New York offers the most complete study of the development of Jewish political participation in New York. Placing a rise of the New York City Reform Movement in historical perspective, the author explains the election of New York's first Jewish mayor, Abe Beame, and the first African-American mayor, David Dinkins, as part of the political evolution of both these groups.
This densely detailed account of the New York mayoralty moves chronologically from 1881 to 1989, focusing on the ethnic role in elections, not the governance of the city. McNickle, a pension fund consultant who has worked for the New York City Human Resources Administration, describes how shifting alliances of Irish, Jewish and Italian New Yorkers dominated the city's politics until the late '50s. As the political machine crumbled, blacks and Puerto Ricans added new elements to the mix. While John Lindsay managed to build a liberal coalition of blacks, Hispanics and Jews in 1969, it was shattered by rising black-Jewish conflict. A new middle-class Catholic-Jewish coalition elected Abraham Beame and Edward Koch in the 1970s. McNickle cites the support of minorities, especially Hispanics, in the 1989 election of David Dinkins, the city's first black mayor. Only in a final chapter does McNickle offer analytical reflection; in it he suggests, arguably, that the absence of campaign issues helps explain the strength of ethnic voting patterns. Photos not seen by PW.