Under Mayor Daley's rule (from 1953 to 1976), the cook county regular democratic organization (better known as "The Chicago Machine) grew to world reknowned. IN large part due to the famous actions around the 1960 presidential race, where election fraud was raised to new highs on behalf of John Kennedy, the party was considered secondary to the eastern bloc in perversion of democracy and crushing of opposition.
This, of course, is an exaggeration of the actual activities of the party. Yes, the machine did have power over some degree of national politics, and the party did have a close working relationship with all other factions in the city government. Just as the accusations of abuse are beyond what actually happened, the intentions of the party and driving thoughts were much less nefarious. There was a heavy "push" factor for much of the activity in creating the group.
Before the rise of what would have become the regular organization in the 1930's, the political and governmental structure was largley anglo and republican run. The "republican" control of the state and local government makes some degree of sense, seeing that Illinois, the self-proclaimed "land of Lincoln", etc. The Anglo run part of the party makes some degree of sense when the pre-history of the Republican party is examined. Before the civil war, the opposition parties in the United States were incredible tightly tied to nativist, anti-urban movements. Following along the Jeffersonian concepts of Democracy, with which urban immigrant workers are considered tat threat as result of their lack of financial independence. After the presidency of Andrew Jackson (considered by some to be, in some ways, the father of the Democratic Party1), Nativists and others started to understand the urban immigrant threat in similar ways as to the free-soliers movement in regards to slavery interests.
It's slightly ironic that the republican party, which was later considered a party of reform in not only Chicago but also New York , Los Angeles, and elsewhere was by the 1920s and 30s the party of corruption and crime under the rule of Big Bill Thompson. By that time some Ethnic Irish were considered acceptable and in the ruling class, but only those of the "Lace Curtain" upper class Irish and Scotch Irish families. One particular character, both denied the Democratic ticket for mayor and support by others due to his ethnic origin, was Anton Cermak, a bohemian born politician. Cermak capitalized on the discontented white ethnic vote through various patches of the city to create a coalition that removed Thompson and gave a path up to other Bridgeport politicians.
This machine, based largely in Bridgeport, was much of different than the political groups that it followed. This different approach covered graft, political aims, and more. An example of this would be the second of the Bridgeport based Regular Organization mayors, Mike Kennely. After a short run on crime following Cermak and Corr, the Alderman who filled Cermak's office after his assassination2, was considered a reformer, despite his inability to affect any change. It was after this that Richard Daley, already 20-some years in politics, took the reigns of the city.
As writers have mentioned in such works as A Stripe of Tammany's Tiger3 and other works, a political machine can not rightly be considered by any populist to be a total failure. Considered by some to be the necessary expansion of Jacksonian Democratic theory after the rise of the Republican party, the political machine allows a method for the incorporation of the disenfranchised. Even to this day, the ability to register voters is one of the signs of a good organization, not only because the people that they sign up are more likely to vote in their direction4. Further, a machine calls for better city and other services to the disadvantaged, and caused a more focused light to be shined on the elected officials to keep them on some degree of a straight and narrow. Furthermore, in several cases, perceived ileagle activates were carried out in legal manners, despite claims otherwise5.
Even despite the confusion later on, mayor Daley, to some degree, held up the high points of these organizations. As was pointed out by people in the eulogizing book published after his death, "He considers Chicago his city. The sidewalks are his living room. The parks are his backyard. He just doesn't want anyone to screw up."6 Compared to may city politicians, Daley was responsible for very little of the Constant graft, and took little to no money for himself. Despite the fact that a good deal of development being farmed out to Charlie Swiebel, and the famous deal about swinging city business to his son's firm ("If a man can't help his son, well than you can kiss my ass"), after his death his wife was left with relatively little cash.
What he valued more in his work, what drew him to use his power more than a personal financial benefit, though, were the same things that he looked for in supported characters through the city; loyalty to those that support and respect for those who have done more. When jobs were given to members of the political network, as they always were and overseen by Daley. It was noted in Mike Royko's book on Daley, Boss7 that the party organization did not always give support to anyone, an example listed being Jessie Jackson. Daley, of course, suggested that Jackson go to the local party chair and start work as an precinct chair. It can not be assumed, though, that this would mean that Jackson would be dismissed out of hand. It was the use of black politicians such as William Dawson who twice caused major city power shifts, and work with Daley inside the organization would have likely been supported. It is not out of consideration to think that Jackson was not taken seriously because he was black, but it is not completely correct to think this was the only reason he was ignored.
While it is known that the Regular Organization was quite active in national political activities, the party and machine's actual activities, in combination with the police riot of 1968, is quite different question. Yes, the city police were the group that did in large part the worst of the riot, and yetis the city did not handle the aftereffects of the riot as well as some people would have liked them to. But each of these came from a reasoning, one that would not be the same as assumed by others.
It can be assumed that the cook county party was a fan of Hubert Humphrey, then vice president. Humphrey was not a radical or extreme candidate either in any sense of the word or the use. He had stayed along relatively safe political fault lines his entire careerer, one of the reasons that most "kids" did not want to see him chosen as president. Despite this, he seemed to embody the ideas that were selected by the machine better than most, including Eugene McCarthy, the other "front-runner" after the death of Robert Kennedy. This can be supported in the files of Claybourne Jacob Avery, Daley's predecessor in the seat of Party Chair and then State National Committeeman. Where Avery had, saved, about a foot and a half high stack of letters from McCarthy supporters, he (as well as others from the Daley lead delegation) cast there support to Humphrey. Further, in these records of the ranking democrat at the convention at the time, There was only one mention of the riots, a telegram from Mrs. Rose Ratner, of unknown relation to the downers to the University of Chicago. This telegram ended with the request "I implore you to use your still considerable influence to depose this madman". This was something beyond Avery's scope of power, loosing the fight for power some fifteen years previous. In the Book American Pharaoh8, author Adam Cohen starts off with a discussion of the response Mayor Daley gave upon questioning on television during the convention. While much of the points that Daley mentioned were not true, either half truths or flat out lies, it can be assumed that like Robert Moses or Richard Nixon, he likely did feel that these long haired characters were a risk to his city, a risk to all that he had built.
Of course, as Royko mentioned in Boss, "The desk, with a green leather inset, is always clear of paper. He is an orderly man. Besides, he doesn't like to put things on paper, preferring the telephone. Historians will look in vain for a revealing memo, an angry note. He stores his information in his brain and has an amazing recall of detail." As a result of the compartmentalizing of this work and protective sensitization of everything, it is heard to find the hard evidence, the memos needed to point out intent.
Cohen, Adam, and Taylor, Elizabeth. American Pharaoh-Mayor Richard J. Daley: His Battle for Chicago and The Nation. Little, Brown & Co., NY 2000
Royko, Mike. Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago. E.P. Dutton & Co, Inc. NY, 1971
Spucrloch, James L. Ed. Richard J. Daley, In Memory. Manol Publications, Chicago, 1977
Kennedy, Eugene. Himself! The Life and Times of Mayor Richard J. Daley. The VIking Press, New York, 1978
The Personal Files of Col. Jacob M Arvey, Box 10, 11, 12. Files with reguards to the Democratic National Convention, Folders 10-1 through 12-15