When I was in school we were taught that power was defined as a person or thing that possesses or exercises authority or influence. Five specific types of power were identified. These powers were Coercive, Legitimate, Reward, Expert and Referent. To me the worse type of power was Coercive, power that comes from the ability of someone to punish. The best power is Referent, the power possessed by an individual based on respect that others have toward the individual.
Over the years a sixth power has entered into the vernacular. This sixth power is Connection Power. This is identified as power obtained by who a person knows. While it is a relatively newly recognized power, the actual use of this power has been in existence since the beginning of mankind.
In today’s political and governmental environments the use of connection power is commonplace. For those that saw the movie The Green Mile one of the villains had been placed in a key position at Angola because he was the governor’s wife nephew. While such actions are unfortunate they are not out of the norm. When connection power is combined with referent power a person or persons of immense stature emerge. This will then lead to a group of people that wields much control over a sector of the country or the country as a whole.
While we can relate to existing events in Washington in relation to the use of power and especially connection power, the 1920s and 30s provide a unique glimpse into how the power players in the Democratic Party used networking and connection power to gain control and then hold it for decades.
In 1924 the democratic convention was held in New York. A front runner was Al Smith, Governor of New York. A growing leader in the party was Jim Farley as was also a young Franklin Roosevelt. The convention was very contentious due to the KuKluxKlan controversy and it took over one hundred ballots to select the Democratic candidate. Al Smith was not selected and this was primarily due to a Catholic leader of immense power in the party saying that a Catholic could not be elected President. Ironically this person was Joe Kennedy, father of the first Catholic President, John Kennedy.
!n 1928 Roosevelt cut a deal with the Huey Long delegation to support Al Smith for President. The delegation did and Smith was the democratic nominee. Smith’s campaign manager was Franklin D. Roosevelt and the new head of the Democratic Central Committee was Jim Farley. Smith lost the race to Hoover. The economy soon collapsed and the stage was set for a Democratic to take office. In 1932 Roosevelt cast Smith aside and ran himself. His campaign manager was Jim Farley. Smith felt he had been stabbed in the back and never spoke to Roosevelt again.
Smith still remained friends with Farley. Farley had formed a gigantic building material consortium in New York City. Smith became president of the new Empire State Building Corporation and Farley provided a large amount of the building materials for the construction of what was then the tallest building in the world. Roosevelt also made Farley Post Master General. One initiative that Farley pushed was the use of planes to carry the mail. Delta Air Lines received a lucrative contract that helped to build the air line. A major owner of Delta was also the first to bottle Coka Cola in Monroe, Louisiana.
In 1940 Farley fell out of favor with Roosevelt due to abuse of power by Roosevelt. Farley left the administration but later began work in the private sector. His new job, Chairman of the Board of Coka Cola Exporting Company.

This information and other interesting stories about American Political History in the 1920s adn 30s can be read in “I Called Him Grand Dad. The Lost Political Papers of Harvey G. Fields.” Available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.


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