To come up with similarities between the fictional mayor in Edwin O’Connor’s novel The Last Hurrah and real urban politicians like Richard J. Daley, one will probably need to do some research into Daley and identify certain common methods.
One similarity involves the length of their political careers. Frank Skeffington, the mayor of the nameless, northeastern city, has been in power for years. Skeffington secured his authority by aptly exploiting the city’s political machine to his advantage.
Daley, too, ruled his own city for a long time. He was Chicago’s mayor from 1955 to 1976. In 1975, the year prior to his death, Daley had been elected to his sixth term. As with Skeffington, Daley’s power came from deftly using Chicago’s political apparatus to his advantage. Like Skeffington, he had extensive knowledge of its members and mechanisms. He methodically accrued loyalty, which he rewarded with various appointments and favors.
Both Skeffington and Daley came to resemble the top-down, hardball, shady methods that supplied them with their hegemony. When Daley died and Skeffington lost, their machines, more or less, dissolved with them. After Skeffington learns that Kevin McCluskey won the race, one of Skeffington’s advisors muses,
Discipline, the very heart of the successful political machine, had somehow been allowed to go to pot.
Another similarity to think about relates to their achievements. Although each political figure could be described as problematic, their deceitful, underhanded methods produced tangible results for their voters. Skeffington built roads and buildings for his town. Daley was crucial in creating Chicago’s skyline and completing its network of expressways.