Term Paper: Bridges, Amy. Morning Glories: Municipal Reform

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Bridges, Amy. Morning Glories: Municipal Reform in the Southwest.

Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997.

The title of Amy Bridge's book Morning Glories: Municipal Reform in the Southwest, comes from a phrase of the infamous Tammany Hall politician George Washington Plunkett who referred to the political reformers that wished to eliminate the corruption and patronage from local politics as "morning glories" who would wither and dry up, while politicians like Plunkett and Boss Tweed would continue to flourish like old oaks (1). Many of these reformers, moreover, were often openly xenophobic and anti-immigrant, hardly the proud champions of democratic pluralism that contemporary readers might like to think. The representatives of the major American urban political machines were often of immigrant backgrounds, such as the Irish of Tammany Hall (6).

University of San Diego Professor of Political Science, Bridges argues that while the Progressive movement's short shelf life may have been the case in the American East, in the Southwest, the trajectory of reform took a very different path, and the Progressive reform movement was ultimately more successful in the Southwest. There, political party machines were eradicated with a nonpartisan spirit, a civic elite of commissioners and managers rather than entrenched mayors and party politicians came to reign, and the system was competitive rather than monopolistic in nature between the different parties (1). Voters easily crossed alliances from one party to another, and publicly sponsored referendums were frequent.

Of course, today the legacies of municipal reform movements are felt everywhere in the United States, most notably in the nation's strong civil service system, based upon tests and merit rather than patronage, independent voter registration, and other things we take for granted -- but only in the Southwest were reformers truly blessed with victories at the polls (207). The value of Bridges' book is that it regionalizes American civic development, rather than suggesting American urban and suburban politics proceeds as a seamless whole. Bridges creates a historical narrative that traces the development of reform from the 19th century Progressives to the grass roots reformers of the 1970s and 1980s. In contrast to the corruption of the North, and even in contrast to the common self-image of the Southwest as characterized by 'pure' government only on small-scale suburban levels, a number of major Southwestern cities, such as San Diego, were dominated by nonpartisan mayors and city governments, the result of reformer's demand nonpartisan elections (72).

Southwest regional newspapers formed an important voice in reformist campaigns, including African-American and Spanish voices (24). The African-American Arizona Sun in Phoenix, which began as a response to critics of the leadership as disproportionately made up of whites and businessmen emerged as an early voice for desegregation and "intelligent participation in politics" (139). However, this triumph of reform came at a price, no pun intended -- one could argue that the region was essentially forced to sell its soul to industry, to escape the grip of machinist politics. It was willing to do so in cities such as Texas and San Diego as the Southwest had little economic infrastructure. The Southwest was more desirous of stimulating business expansion and investment from large corporations to secure better utility services, prisons, universities, and highways, in contrast to the North which already had built such services and institutions (207).

Bridges' own position as to the role of businessmen in municipal reform is ambivalent. On one hand, she points out that during the first half of the century businessmen played a prominent role in destabilizing the 'professional' status of many politicians who praticed 'Tammany Hall' type politics. Bridges calls the new Southwest system 'city-manager' type governance… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Bridges, Amy. Morning Glories: Municipal Reform.  (2007, April 16).  Retrieved November 21, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/bridges-amy-morning-glories-municipal/789607

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"Bridges, Amy. Morning Glories: Municipal Reform."  Essaytown.com.  April 16, 2007.  Accessed November 21, 2019.
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