Joe “Boss Tweed” Biden

Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes

Boss Tweed cut a swath of corruption across American politics in the 19th Century so egregious it sparked a major reform movement. Still synonymous with political corruption is the term “Tammany Hall,” the epicenter of late 19th-century New York City politics. Tweed built a political machine that made him very wealthy and entrenched the power of the Democrat Party. Sound familiar?

William M. Tweed held several public offices in New York but excelled as a party boss. He found his comeuppance at the hands ironically of a political cartoonist, Thomas Nast.

Eventually, he was found guilty of embezzlement of what would be several billion dollars in today’s currency, served a term in prison, escaped from prison, and fled to Spain.  Recaptured in Spain, he later died in prison.  More interesting details can be found by viewing the video. It would be an understatement to say he led a colorful life.

For our purposes, we are more interested in his crimes against democracy; his active participation in election fraud, and its parallels to today. For without control of the ballot box, he could not have looted New York City.

His crimes were so extensive that it sparked a reform movement called Progressivism. This was a socialist-tinged movement of intellectuals and writers that while left of center, still believed in representative democracy and wanted to see corrupt political machines broken.

The movement gave rise to prominent politicians of both parties such as Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. Unfortunately, its internal contradictions often worked in cross purposes to its professed goals.

However, the insistence on fair elections stands in stark contrast to “progressives” in our current era. At one time, making sure elections were clean was not considered to be “against democracy” as it is today. In fact, clean elections were considered “pro-democracy”, because without faith that elections truly reflect the will of the people, rather than the power of a political machine, people would lose faith in the democratic system.

The error of the “progressives” was that they believed in central planning by experts and bureaucrats, which soon took decision-making out of the hands of everyday people. That bureaucracy would morph into the Administrative State, which rides roughshod over the checks and balances written into the Constitution. As elitists, they championed the “common people” but their propensity to centralize power in bureaucracy worked to reduce the power regular citizens have over the choices in their lives.

Journalism of that era uncovered corruption and was honored as the so-called Muckraking writers who discovered the ills of monopoly in the industry, filth in the food supply, and dishonesty at the ballot box.

Do that today and you are an election denier, an anti-science anti-vaxxer, a climate denier, and a conspiracy theorist.

One of the great historians of the Progressive movement, Arthur S. Link notes that electoral reform started with the municipal reform movement that took down Tammany Hall in New York and spread to Chicago, Cleveland, and other cities. Eventually, it made the national stage with the Pendleton Act, which was supposed to create a merit-based Civil Service.

As to the latter, the DEI movement stands the idea of a merit-based professional Civil Service on its head. Through DEI hirings, you get rid of the disloyal and recruit the loyal, without having to concede there is a party label to the endeavor. It is an ideological spoils system dressed up as reform. In many ways, it is worse because under the old “spoils system”, political cronies turned over with a change in administrations. Today, they are the permanent fourth branch of government.

According to Link, “All municipal reformers fought common enemies: entrenched and corrupt politicians allied with privileged business and criminal elements. They all sought the same goals: impartial government, fair taxation, regulation of public service companies, and expanded social services for the lower classes…But progressives soon learned that it was not enough to throw the rascals out and inaugurate a program of economic and social reform. Politics remained, and reformers would never rest secure so long as bosses controlled the party structure.”

So early progressives to their credit, were enemies of corrupt political machines that used electoral fraud to stay in power.

We learn that the initiative, referendum, and recall came from this reform movement, all features of a new state like Arizona that was formed right in the middle of the progressive ferment. Even mayors were supposed to be more like non-partisan administrators, and we see that in Arizona when most mayors do not run on a party ticket even though we know they will rule with the ideology of their party affiliation.

That begs the question. What abuses did Tweed and others commit to create such monumental blowback?

Here are a few of the common abuses of the era as recorded by historians and think of parallels to today:

Voter fraud: Tweed and his cronies stuffed ballot boxes and encouraged repeat voting. In short, ballots would be counted that were not from voters or counted more than once. Ballot harvesting today is not much different nor is allowing illegal aliens to vote. In fact, Tweed made a regular industry out of exploiting Irish immigrants. More about that later.

The use of intimidation and violence: Tweed employed “shoulder hitters,” who would intimidate voters or prevent voters from voting, all while they stood in line to vote, sort of like the way Democrats do in Philadelphia. Tweed used “coping,” which was a way to restrain or “coop up” voters who might vote against him.

Control of polling places: The operatives of “the boss” would oversee ballot counting, often altering or discarding ballots that were unfavorable and introducing new ballots known to be favorable. The famous Nast cartoon of the era sums up the importance of who is doing the ballot counting.


It is partly because of Tweed we have “observers” from both parties at polling places. There is controversy as to whether that has always occurred, but likely more important is that much counting is done by computers connected to the internet. How that data is collected, whether it has been altered, requires a very high level of computer expertise, likely skills volunteer “observers” can’t possess.  If the process is too complex for an observer or can only be determined well after the fact, does it matter if you have an observer present?

Today we often have errors of omission as much as errors of commission.  These arguably are worse because the results stick even though the process is compromised. With mail-in balloting, there is no reliable chain of custody of the ballots and a failure to adequately check signatures can be excused by inexperience, time pressure, and the difficulty of undoing a poorly conducted election.

Exploitation of immigrants: Tweed and other bosses had a complete conveyor-like process to greet immigrants at the docks, help find them jobs, give them money, and provide them housing, in order to secure their votes.  In short, make them dependent on the boss to create a voting bloc. This is kind of what Democrat-funded non-profits do. First, find and import illegal aliens and provide them with legal advice. Then, the government provides them food, transportation, healthcare, housing, and social benefit checks, to buy their votes. Our “Border Patrol” acts primarily as greeters and providers of concierge services to illegals.

Today’s methods by Democrats are on a far grander scale than what Tweed did. It works. Immigrants vote overwhelmingly for those who made them dependent, i.e. Democrats.

Bribery: Tweed and his contemporaries would bribe both voters and election officials.  Today we are more sophisticated. We have millions of “Zuck bucks” going to local election officials and employ Federal Agencies that hand out food stamps, small business loans, and other goodies to perform selective voter registration.

Bribing can go beyond elections and into policies, such as non-democratic edicts of Federal Agencies. The Biden Administration is threatening to withhold school lunch money and other Federal monies from local jurisdictions that don’t support the transgender movement or the destruction of women’s sports. The idea is either to bribe local officials with private money, use the funds and resources of Federal Agencies for vote gathering, or threaten local governments with the loss of Federal money.

Kickbacks: Tweed made most of his money on construction projects requiring contractors to pay him back for the municipal construction projects he sent their way.

Democrats today are also past masters at using “the disguised kickback” and have even taken it to the international level. One method is to provide lavish subsidies to “green industries” and grants to non-profits that then kick back huge campaign contributions or help recruit potential voters.  At the international level, provide massive military aid to corrupt foreign governments and have those officials put the President’s son and brothers on the payroll.

If you study Tweed, the biblical phrase “there is nothing new under the sun” comes to mind. Today we have “high-tech” election procedures that only the most informed can follow, but they are all built on Tweed’s original mastery of the subject. Indeed, it is not much different from Tweed but sadly today corruption is even more massive and pervasive than in 19th century New York. Biden and the Democrats have taken it to the national and even to the international level, actively interfering in other nations’ elections, such as in Israel or Ukraine. Boss Tweed would fully understand and marvel at this accomplishment.

The big difference today is the silence of the “progressives”, the journalists, and the novelists. Today we find journalists and social media companies get a good deal of their money and marching orders from the government. They will determine what is news and “information” and what political ideas will be allowed to be discussed. And, any discussion of potential or actual election interference is considered “an attack on democracy.”

Tweed must be pleased with how far his ideas have come.

Who will lead the reform movement of our day to end corruption and restore election integrity?

The only possible candidate we see is “the populist Republican”, who has been critical of establishment Republican leaders as well as Democrats.  But it will be an uphill battle against a political machine far bigger than anything Boss Tweed could have conceived.



The Prickly Pear’s TAKE ACTION focus this year is to help achieve a winning 2024 national and state November 5th election with the removal of the Biden/Obama leftist executive branch disaster, win one U.S. Senate seat, maintain and win strong majorities in all Arizona state offices on the ballot and to insure that unrestricted abortion is not constitutionally embedded in our laws and culture.

Please click the TAKE ACTION link to learn to do’s and don’ts for voting in 2024. Our state and national elections are at great risk from the very aggressive and radical leftist Democrat operatives with documented rigging, mail-in voter fraud and illegals voting across the country (yes, with illegals voting across the country) in the last several election cycles.

Read Part 1 and Part 2 of The Prickly Pear essays entitled How NOT to Vote in the November 5, 2024 Election in Arizona to be well informed of the above issues and to vote in a way to ensure the most likely chance your vote will be counted and counted as you intend.

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