Neo-Nuckies in New Jersey

Steven Hart’s American Dictators: Frank Hague, Nucky Johnson, and the Perfection of the Urban Political Machine is proving to be a fascinating read that, with a little better planning on my part*, I would have already finished.

So far the two New Jersey Depression-era political bosses come off as benefactors especially when compared to our current crop that Mr. Hart describes on page 8:

[New Jersey’s current] brand of corruption does have a distinctive aroma, thanks to our antiquated structure of county governments and our hodgepodge of municipalities wedded to notions of local control, where cronyism and mutual back-scratching are almost inevitable.  County governments serve no public function that could not be reassigned to the state or municipal levels, but these twenty-one miniature kingdoms are a matchless avenue for dispensing patronage, and they serve as secure power bases for regional barons and power brokers.  These mini-Hagues and neo-Nuckies exercise nothing like the power wielded by their predecessors, but within their spheres they sometimes act with a high-handedness that brings to mind the days when Hague could not only say “I am the law!” and mean it, but also go unchallenged.


Further excerpts from the book (with likely many more to come):

Viewed from the first decades of the twenty-first century, the striking combination of venality and charity embodied by the old-style machine may yet turn out to be more attractive – and more laudable – than the arrangements that succeeded it. page 10

This studied indifference to any real distinction between government and big business led muckraking journalist Lincoln Steffens to decry New Jersey as “a traitor state,” at least in the eyes of anyone hoping to clean up politics. page 12

When culture-war politics keeps voters frothing in anger at imaginary foes, they lose the benefits of functioning public schools and adequate pubic utilities (and, possibly, Social Security) in exchange for the dim satisfaction of keeping gays from being able to marry. page 162




* For a babysitting assignment last night I thought I fortified myself sufficiently but the “Learn to Play Drums” books and video were useless as my charge was more interested in playing a game where Johnny Bravo throws over-sized bowling balls around Baltimore’s Inner Harbor leaving me to go through the Blinken Report and make up a blog piece which took me through 11 pm at which time I turned my attention to two books I brought (neither of which was American Dictator).  Thom Hartmann’s The Crash of 2016 kicked off with a nonsensical rendering of a childhood nightmare about the dark side of the moon and then adopted as the poster boy for his slant the guy who flew a plane into an IRS building in Austin in 2010, though admitting:

“It would be easy, and convenient, to write Joe Stack off as a deranged man who, faced with financial troubles, resorted to a desperate act of violence.”

Yes, it was very easy for me to do that and I stopped reading and picked up my backup book, A Short Guide to a Long Life by David B. Agus, MD which, true to its title, took about 30 minutes to browse through its bromides leaving me (not wanting to return to Hartmann) two hours to see what the deal was with Instagram, Snapchat, and youtube videos on Bridgegate which time I now find would have been far better spent had I brought that third adult book with me.

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Anonymous on January 27, 2014 at 6:41 pm

    John: In case you don’t know a three-panel appealate court will decide on the COla Question on Tuesday Jan 28 at 10 am in the Middlesex County Court House in New Brunswick.


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