1. Why did politics in the Gilded Age seemingly sink to such a low level? Did the Gilded Age party system have any strengths to compensate for its weaknesses?
The Gilded Age was full of corruption caused by political machines led by prominent, ambitious individuals. The slogan was to “Get rich, dishonestly if we must,” and derived from the covering of material of little value using gold. These machines include the Tweed Ring, which brought in tremendous wealth for the infamous Boss Tweed while serving as a public welfare system in the less fortunate communities of New York City. Crédit Mobilier was a corrupt corporation was protected by the distribution of stock to prominent politicians and profited its own participants through signing contracts for the completion of new railroad lines. Whiskey Ring was another example during the Grant administration which resulted in the affluence of whiskey manufacturers by millions of federal government dollars. Though divided and tainted with corruption, the party system of the Gilded Age had some strengths. American democracy was clearly manifested in the competitive elections between the parties, the evident loyalty to members of each party and the party rallies and oratory that drew much attention. Ballots were cast by 80 percent or more of eligible voters as well. However, with the steady growth of the economy, the political structure looked unprepared for the problems that aroused. Political managers connected to business interests often controlled the Democratic and Republican parties. Republican economic policies, which contributed to the reinforcement of the standard and the promotion of high tariffs, were supported by eastern industrialists and bankers at the financial expense of farmers who were required to paid an additional amount of money for manufactured goods and faced unsuccessful business.