Western Mail September 9th 1932
Power Behind the Personality.
the dapper mayor of New York, has resigned. “Jimmy” stands out both as
a symbol and a condemnation of American city politics, which contrast so
violently with our politics in Wales.
It was not
until I reached New York and saw men of the type of Mayor Walker that I
realised how proud we should be in Wales of many of our public men. What a
difference between the rulers of New York and some of the best types in Welsh
Life, who sacrifice leisure and health for the public good! As long as
Wales can produce men of the calibre of the late Rev O. H. Williams, whose
unselfish services will long leave their mark upon Welsh education, she will be
able to pride herself in a high standard of government. A year of close
study of, and personal contact with, American politics convinces me that Welsh
public government, in spite of several dark features, is at least a hundred
years ahead of that in America.
His Silk “Pajamas.”
never produce a Jimmy Walker. I remember my surprise as a new-comer in the
United States to see photograph of the mayor in front of his open wardrobe,
which contained dozens of pyjamas. “Jimmy,” stated the newspaper is proud of
his collection of 150 silk pajamas.” What public man in Wales could be
elected after that? But I doubt whether any public man will try.
impression of the Mayor of New York likewise lacked the dignity which in Wales
one usually associates with a mayor. It was a typically American scene.
I was walking past the City hall, which is surrounded by skyscrapers, when I saw
a crowd. I joined it. “What’s the, matter?” I asked.
“Jimmy’s coming out,” was the reply.
In a few
minutes a slim, dark, flashily-dressed man, who looked about 40, came from the
door at the top of the City-hall steps. It was the famous “Jimmy.”
He was arm-in-arm with Ed. Wynn, New York’s renowned Jewish comedian.
From the breast pocket of “Jimmy’s” blue suit hung a silk handkerchief;
the cut of his clothes showed a wasp-like waist.
In his eyes
there was a twinkle - it was the twinkle that had made him the darling of New
York. He was followed by six girls, mainly platinum blondes of the type
one rarely sees outside the cinema. They were, I learnt, from the Ziegfeld
Follies. Cameramen rushed to the scene. The New Yorkers shouted
“Good old Jimmy,” and I left, thinking that, after all, there was much to be
said for politics in Wales.
The Broadway Boy.
Jimmy is the
typical Broadway boy. He is Irish, like most of those who govern New York,
and has a sharp wit and a keen instinct for giving the public what it wants.
When the New Yorkers want to be amused, he amuses them. When they want to
weep, he turns on the tap of sentiment and out flows a stream of sob stuff which
rivals the most sickly of American films. If he applies for re-election he
is certain to win by a large majority.
The songs he
has composed have added to his popularity, especially his “Kiss all the girls
for me,” and “Will you love me in December as you did in May?” If
any Welsh mayors have written such songs, they have kept them well concealed
from the public.
What is the
secret of Mayor Walker’s power? It is summed up in one word -
Tammany. Tammany is the Democratic club of New York which has controlled
the city government for very long, and Jimmy is Tammany man. Imagine the
Labour, Liberal or Conservative Club of Cardiff or Swansea having full control
of the life of the town, giving jobs only to Labourites, Liberals or
Conservatives, as the case might be.
Club (Tammany) controls all the municipal posts, from policemen to teachers and
from typists in municipal offices to tram-conductors. If a man is not a
Democrat he will not easily obtain a post under the city; and he has a far
better chance also if he is a Catholic and Irish. All those who have jobs
through the New York City government - and with their dependents they number
200,000 - fear that if the Democrats arts defeated they will lose their jobs
and, therefore, they vote Democratic.
The Way of Charity.
used to obtain the support of the population is to give food to the poor, and in
this respect Tammany is one of the most generous charitable institutions in the
world. Tammany’s first rule is “Help a Democrat,” and compared with
this supreme rule law and order are unimportant. If a Democrat gets into
prison be must be helped, whether he is guilty or not. Woe betide the
prisoner, however, if he is Republican and the judge is Democrat.
I had many
examples of the way in which Tammany helps Democrats when, in order to
investigate political methods, I frequented a Tammany club in the slums.
The club I went to looked like a dance ball, with bright pictures of Al Smith
and Jimmy Walker. A few men with large hats, which they never took off,
smoked large cigars and spat. These were the politicians. The others
in the room looked poor and everyone I talked to had come to look for work.
Tammany do for you?” I asked one old Irishman.
The reply I
expected came: “Tammany gives you JOBS.” He told me of one incident
which showed what a farce the administration of law is in America. Since
nearly all the city councillors in New York are Tammany Democrats Tammany has
control of law and order, and although Prohibition is a Federal law, one might
expect it to be respected by the rulers of America’s greatest city, especially
when they choose the police. My Irish acquaintance turned to me, however,
and said: “A friend of mine was given a fine job last week by Tammany.”
it?” I. asked. “Bar-tender in a speakeasy!” he replied. So at one
minute the city rulers appoint a policeman to keep the law and the next they
man an illegal job in a place where liquor illegally sold!
The Rothstein Murder.
dined at the Park Central Hotel, where in 1928 Arnold Rothstein, the narcotics
King, was murdered. It always mused me to see the Welsh dragon flying with
flags of other nations in the restaurant of the very hotel where a famous
gangster was shot.
something about Rothstein later when at the Harvard Club I had a long talk with
the man who investigated the Rothstein murder and went through Rothstein’s
papers. I was, amazed when he said, “Do you know that Rothstein, greatest
importer of dangerous drugs and friend of Al Capone, was in league with one of
the members of Tammany and with some of the men who rule New York?” Can
one imagine Welsh town councillors making a profit from the import of cocaine?
Such is the
organisation which has produced Jimmy Walker and put him in power, and although
he has resigned we have not seen the last of him.
A Welsh Opponent.
It is significant that one of
Walker’s greatest enemies is a Welshman, Norman Thomas, the Socialist
candidate for the Presidency, whose father and grandfather were Welsh preachers,
and who was the finest and the most honest politician, I met in America.
He is of the type of the
unselfish honourable public man whom we produce so often in Wales. Jimmy
Walker is of he the produced by political favouritism and the system of
appointment not for cent but on account of membership of a certain party or
sect. These are vices which are creeping into some of our public bodies
and which are to be vigorously condemned, and they are vices which the example
of Tammany should teach us to avoid.