Judge Mahoney's blast against Tammany Hall comes at a time when such attacks may be more practical effect then the crusades of colorful preachers and columnists. The movement to reform the Democratic organization of New York Country has the twofold advantage of a capable leader and a new environment in which Tammany is no longer the only organization catering to social needs.
Tammany's erstwhile strength lay in its ability to furnish services which the government, inhibited by the folklore of the times, could not provide. An organization called "Tammany" could help the poor by giving food-baskets, clothing, coal and jobs, when such help from an organization called "government" might have regimented the people, sapped their vigor, and paved the way for Socialism. But under Roosevelt and LaGuardia the government by providing relief from the City Hall made unnecessary the exhorbitant tax which New Yorkers paid when this service emanated from the Wigwam. Good government is now preferred to Tammany misrule because good government has ceased to mean merely a balanced budget wrapped up in sterile slogans about initiative and self reliance.
This great social change, when combined with the moral indignation against graft now communicated to the poorer classes formerly dependent on Tammany, provides a powerful lever for the uprooting of an institution that has become a symbol "for all that is crooked, slimy, unpatriotic, and sinister in politics in any machine ridden city." Starved of national and city patronage, riddled by internal discussion and confronted by a real District Attorney, some leaders of the Wigwam may soon turn the Bridge of Sighs into a Tam-many wailing wall.
But like the A.F. of L. Tammany will fight on. As Thurman Arnold points out: "Institutions once formed have the persistence of all living things. ... Even when their utility both to the public and their own members has disappeared, they still survive." Tammany still bivouacs some of its cohorts in state departments; it still elects Assemblymen, State Senators, and Congressmen; it still makes judges. It will not obey any orders to disband. It will not be destroyed until it is beaten by another Democratic organization that combines the patronage, prestige, and mass support of the New Deal with the morale and organizational strength formerly possessed by Charlie Murphy's Tammany.