From the Ward to the White House

George E. Reedy, former press secretary to President Lyndon B. Johnson, pursues an aspect of his interest in power politics that was reflected in his earlier books such as THE U.S. SENATE: PARALYSIS OR SEARCH FOR CONSENSUS?, THE TWILIGHT OF THE PRESIDENCY, and THE PRESIDENCY IN FLUX. Contending that Irish immigrants to the United States in the mid 1850’s came not to escape religious or political persecution so much as to survive the potato famines that were devastating their homeland, Reedy shows how the Irish bonded with other oppressed ethnic minorities in the cities where they found jobs as laborers.

Because the Irish, unlike many other groups of immigrants, spoke English, they became spokespersons for Eastern and Southern Europeans, often defending the rights of these nonnative speakers. For the Irish, upward social and economic mobility came when they left their laborers’ jobs to join the police force or fire department. From these jobs, administrative positions ensued, leading the most ambitious of the Irish to elective political offices.

For some of them, ward positions led to City Hall and eventually to state offices. The greatest political victory for Irish was, of course, the election in 1960 of John Fitzgerald Kennedy as the first Catholic of Irish descent to be President of the United States.