“Bosses” and “Reformers”:
A Profile of the New York Democrats
THE MORNING John F. Kennedy spoke to the New York delegation prior to the voting at the Los Angeles convention, he reminded the New Yorkers that the Democratic party was founded in the course of a botanizing expedition up the Hudson River valley, which had brought Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr together to talk politics. By almost any calculation, this would make the New York Democratic party the oldest political organization on earth: the British Tories, the American Republicans, the French Radicals are all venerable institutions, but the New York Democratic party was in the second half of its first century before even the oldest of these others was established as a permanent organization.
Of all the institutions that Jefferson helped to found, there is surely none that would please him more, in its freedom from the burdens of tradition, than the New York Democrats. They have no ceremonials, no mace, no ancient customs; it is unlikely that anyone could say for certain just where, if anywhere, the records of fifteen or twenty years back are stored. (But would even Jefferson have dared hope that after one hundred and sixty odd years of continuous existence, the oldest political party in the world would still have its offices in a hotel room?) To be free of tradition, however, is not to be free of the past. In the months since Los Angeles, the New York Democrats, after helping Kennedy to carry the state by 375,000 votes, have been torn apart by a controversy-involving the related efforts of the “reform” Democrats to get rid of Carmine De Sapio as leader of Tammany, and those of the Kennedy administration to get rid of Michael H. Prendergast as state chairman-that has its roots in the very origins of the party.
About the Author