HBO has been running a mini-series ostensibly about prohibition and gangsterism, but what I've seen so far is a political boss who gets into the rum running business. That gangsters are in embryo form at this point in the story line.
There's this great scene where boss Thomson has given money and a job to a widow, whose husband he had killed, and she asks him what he wants in return. He looks at her and says, "I want you to vote Republican."
As evil and corrupt as bossism was it was based on a quid pro quo
. The boss found people jobs, places to live, health care, etc. It was chump change compared to the money they got from the kick backs and bribes their guaranteed votes garnered. The secret ballot helped end most of the excesses of bossism. The New Deal's social safety net took a lot of what the bosses doled out in favors to benefit everyone. But when all was said and done the people who sold their vote to the boss got something in return. Maybe it wasn't much, but it was better than nothing.
Today bosses don't have to help the people. They deceive them by advertising. They don't have to mingle with the little people, buy up all the media outlets, get your message out and make a fortune in campaign spending from both sides at the same time.
As horrible as it was for the Supremes to open the cash drawers of corporations on political spending, the real democratic disaster was when the FCC dropped restrictions on who could own more than a small percentage of radio and TV stations. We no longer have local Boss Thompsons. King Rupert Murdock rules America, lock stock and entertainment.