Study Guide

Boardwalk Empire Politics

By Nelson Johnson


The politicians saw the easy money being made by the racketeers and demanded a piece of the action. (4.28)

In Atlantic City, there's a fine line between politicians and criminals. Although these early leaders don't realize it, they're writing a script that future Atlantic City politicians will follow along their rise to power.

The Commodore wasn't content just having control of Atlantic City politics. If he were to catch the attention of the state Republican organization, he would need to dominate things totally. (4.42)

If nothing else, you have to give credit to Kuehnle for having a vision. We can debate whether or not this political system is ethical or not, but the truth is that it works. That's more than you can say about a lot of local governments. Furthermore, Kuehnle knows that simply controlling the city isn't going to be enough—he needs to move up to the big leagues.

The ability to crank out lopsided votes in a Republican primary made Kuehnle a power broker on the state level. Politicians respect votes no matter how they're gotten. (4.45)

Ah, there's nothing like a heaping serving of voter fraud to really make you feel alive. Now Atlantic City's leaders aren't merely powerful within the city—they're powerful within the whole state. Kuehnle can literally change the course of an election by making a few telephone calls. Boo ya.

When Wilson entered New Jersey politics, the state was a prime example of what reformers throughout the country were battling. (4.50)

Although Atlantic City is particularly corrupt, the entire state of New Jersey is sort of a mess, too. After all, would a non-corrupt state government really give so much support to Atlantic City's leaders? If there's smoke, you can bet your bottom dollar that there's a fire.

Walter Edge became governor. This was the first of many occasions when Nucky and Hague put aside party differences to work for their mutual interests. (5.20)

Backroom deals are as common as the cold in Atlantic City. How else would you see a Democrat and Republican working together to get the same guy elected? While this might seem heartwarming to the modern eye, it actually reveals a disturbing level of governmental corruption.

That so many people in power could take leave of their senses by supporting a law so utterly unenforceable stands as a monument to the ignorance of single-issue politics. (5.23)

Ironically, Atlantic City ends up benefiting from one of the biggest political blunders in U.S. history—Prohibition. Although it started with the best of intentions, Prohibition only ends up shifting money from working class families to criminals. This effect is amplified even further in Atlantic City, where liquor sales continue as if Prohibition never happened.

"There never really was a second political party in Atlantic City, just different lineups of players who ran under different banners." (5.34)

Eventually the local Republican Part basically takes over the local Democratic Party. Politics in Atlantic City is like a shell game: No matter how much you pay attention, it's all but impossible to know what's truly going on. It's all one big con.

Atlantic City's residents had come to expect favors that went beyond politics. Farley's duties were like those of a feudal lord. (7.2)

As usual, there are pluses and minuses to this approach. On one hand, residents really do have someone who listens to their concerns and sincerely tries to meet their needs. On the other, one wrong move will lead to you being blackballed by the organization.

Hap ruled the Republican Caucus in the state senate the same way a strong-willed coach runs his team. (7.53)

Unlike his predecessors, Hap is actually really good at being a politician. Fancy that. When you combine this natural political acumen with the corruption inherent in being an Atlantic City boss, you end up with one powerful dude.

Hap Farley knew the world was growing hostile toward his brand of politics, yet he refused to retire or change his methods. (8.36)

This is how it all ends. After all of the legislative success, all of the backroom dealings, and all of the political intrigue, the Atlantic City political machine is no more. The world simply moved on and Farley wasn't interested in moving along with it.