The political season is upon us before we can at least celebrate the winter holiday of your choice. The retailers couldn't resist pushing Christmas up against Halloween, and the politicians can't resist snuggling the caucuses up to Christmas. You want to scream, "For goodness sakes go home! We know your families don't like you or you wouldn't be running for public aclaim, but go home anyway!!!"
The only way to get away from them is to retreat to the past, so what do you find on this day in history? Another blankety blank crooked politician. Fortunately, when you look a little deeper, you get to ignore them all and start singing.
On December 4, 1875, William Marcy "Boss" Tweed, notorious leader of New York City's Democratic political machine, escaped from prison.
Between 1865 and 1871, Boss Tweed and his cronies stole millions of dollars from the city treasury. Convicted of forgery and larceny in 1873, Tweed was released in 1875.
Immediately rearrested on civil charges, he was allowed daily visits to his family in the company of his jailor. On one of these trips, Tweed made his escape.
Fleeing to Spain, he worked as a common seaman on a Spanish ship until recognized by his likeness to a Nast cartoon and captured. Extradited to New York, William Marcy Tweed died in debtor's prison on April 12, 1878.
The political machine that created Boss Tweed and that Tweed strengthened remained a powerful force in New York City politics. Through a system of patronage and charity, Tammany Hall, the executive committee of the New York City Democratic Party, commanded the allegiance of many voters. Lacking a government safety net, poor citizens relied on the party for access to employment, or for help with funeral expenses.
Public works projects like Central Park provided politicians with patronage opportunities ranging from lucrative contracts to day work digging ditches. A weakened Tammany was finally brought down by the opposition of Franklin Roosevelt and his influence in putting Republican, Fiorello La Guardia, in as mayor of New York.
"The Little Flower" is shown here in 1945 reading to the radio audience during a newspaper strike, because he didn't want the children to miss their daily comics.
His life later became the basis for the Tony Award winning musical Fiorello, proving that the only defense against politics is by decking the halls and singing LA LA LA as loudly as possible.