Discord & Dissension – Part V – Corruption

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Continuing the project that Jill and I started a few weeks back, I’d like to take a look at a subject that encapsulates so much of what is wrong with our politics today.

What is corruption? According to Merriam Webster, corruption is dishonest or illegal behavior by powerful people, such as government officials or police officers; an inducement to wrong by improper or unlawful means (such as bribery).

Sound familiar? The fate of our politics in 2020 has never been more perilous. We’re now in the midst of perhaps the most corrupt administration in history, whose leader was impeached by the Democratically controlled House of Representatives, but acquitted by the Republican-controlled Senate.

It seems every time you turn around, someone in power is doing something he or she shouldn’t. When folks obtain a level of power in our society, especially in the Washington D.C. political world, the lure to keep that position is sometimes too hard to resist. And the way the rules are set up, our whole system of democracy becomes more fragile by the minute.

And what is the result? A public that believes it’s all part of the game. We become numb to much of the wrongdoing, and we develop a grudging acceptance that nothing is ever going to change. The big corporate and wealthy interests have such a hold on our politicians; we never seem to get things done that matter so much to so many people. The choice, by millions of Americans, is to throw up their hands and give up.

Malaise sets in, and what you get is a public that doesn’t show up on election day. Of course, there are other reasons for that. But yes, mistrust of politicians and our whole system of government plays a role too.

We need to change that narrative. There are things we can do that will put some trust back in democracy. Over time, if the public sees movement in the right direction, participation in our electoral process would surely increase.

When Trump campaigned in 2016, we heard him talk a lot about draining the swamp. Most people took that to mean that he would change Washington to the point where it would finally start working for the people and not the wealthy corporate elites. It resonated with many who supported him. But those of us who did not vote for him knew he was selling snake oil. And he’s proven it every day since.

Rather than drain the swamp, he’s filled it quite nicely with people who toe the line of corporations and the wealthy. We know he’s filling his coffers with taxpayer dollars. Millions of dollars flow into his hotels from the Secret Service, as well as other members of his administration. This is not what our Founders had in mind, folks.

But Trump is merely a symptom of an overall bigger problem. He wasn’t the first, nor will he be the last to engage in corrupt behavior. Until we firm up our laws and develop robust rules of the road to follow, we’re going to be stuck right where we are.

So what can we do? A great place to start is an organization called RepresentUS(representus.org). It’s a group consisting of independents, progressives, and conservatives whose goal is to pass federal anti-corruption laws through grassroots efforts in state and local government.

According to the website, in 2018, twenty-three transformative anti-corruption laws were passed in cities and states, ranging from anti-gerrymandering and ranked-choice voting to sweeping ethics and transparency laws. The group is non-profit and is committed to making our government work for the American people—not just the wealthy and corporations.

People who sit on their advisory board include Richard Painter, former ethics adviser to President George W. Bush, Norman Ornstein from the American Enterprise Institute, and Lawrence Lessig, Harvard Law School Professor, as well as many others across the political and business world.

One of the most promising proposals from the organization is a comprehensive reform law entitled The American Anti-Corruption Act. The Act lists four main provisions to be adopted that would go a long way towards giving us the government we deserve.

Stop Political Bribery

*Make it illegal for politicians to take money from lobbyists.

*Ban lobbyist bundling.

*Close the revolving door of lobbyists and special interests offering politicians lucrative jobs.

*Prevent politicians from fundraising during working hours.

End Secret Money

*Immediately disclose political money online.

*Stop donors from hiding behind secret-money groups.

Fix Our Broken Elections

*End gerrymandering.

*Let all voters participate in open primaries.

*Let voters rank their top candidates, avoid “spoilers.”

*Automatic voter registration.

*Vote at home or at the polls.

*Reasonable term limits.

*Change how elections are funded.

Enforce The Rules

*Crackdown on super PACs.

*Eliminate lobbyist loopholes.

*Strengthen anti-corruption enforcement.

Is the American Anti-corruption Act a panacea? Will it solve all of our problems? Of course not. But it’s a start. We’ve got to start somewhere, and this is as right a place as any. If any or all of these provisions became codified into law, we most certainly would begin to see our government come back to where it belongs: to us. We, the taxpayers should have a say in this, and I don’t mean just those who can write checks for millions of dollars.

One thing we know for sure, however, is that the current president does not have a plan for such a thing. Perhaps he’ll work on one in the coming days. I’m not holding my breath, though. Frankly, he’s not into anti-corruption. And why should he be when he continues to corrupt our system every day?

It’s going to fall on us, my friends. We have to get to the polls to elect those who can and will make significant efforts to change the system we have now. Whomever the nominee ends up being, let’s hold their feet to the fire to ensure they tackle a corrupt and rigged Washington, D.C.

The challenge will be tough, going forward. The resistance to such anti-corruption efforts will be strong and fierce. But it’s worth it. With so many obstacles already in place as far as voting is concerned, if we can give the American people hope we’re on the right track, perhaps they’ll decide it’s in their best interest to participate.

Only an overwhelming turnout will ensure we get the change we so desperately need. Thanks to Trump, we’ve taken a severe step back. But, with some hard work and diligence, we can make sure he’s a one-term president. Our democracy hangs in the balance.

20 comments

  1. Reblogged this on Filosofa's Word and commented:
    Today, Jeff tackles corruption in our political system — what and where, why and how — and reminds us why it is going to be so important that we vote in November to remove the most corrupt politicians ever from office. Thank you, Jeff, for this very comprehensive post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I very much like the four provisions. Those who break the rules must be dealt with harshly, corruption must not be allowed to gain a toe hold again.Whatever is decided about gun control must be done without interference by the NRA.
    Nice Work Jeff
    Hugs

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks David. It’s a start, right? I’m thinking, though, that one political party probably doesn’t like any of those proposals. And you know which one I’m talking about. It’s why we must take back the Senate, keep the House, and get rid of you know who. Only then can we hope to achieve any of those things.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. These are excellent proposals, Jeff! I’m no expert on the many candidates running for the Democratic presidential ticket, but Michael Bloomberg seems to be the best bet to get this job done. He’s so wealthy he could buy the NRA – so he’d be beholding to no one but the people. His track record in New York seems to indicate that he’d like this challenge. I know Trump (a pauper by comparison) promised that his wealth would make him beholding to no one, but he’s a liar and he didn’t use any of his own money for his own election campaign. I think Bloomberg is the best bet.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks John. I’ve been an early opposer to Bloomberg entering the race. But, I’ve changed my tune on him. I’m at least willing to consider him as a choice. I know one thing, Trump is rattled by the guy because he’s a real billionaire, not a fake one. His ads are scathing against Trump. He’s got a real chance John. We’ll see how it all plays out.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. John, you may get your ears pinned back! 🙂 Seriously, very few on the Democratic side like the idea of Bloomberg in the White House.

    However, I tend to see him as a positive. Sure, he has some skeletons in his closet, but don’t we all? Trump sure has/had plenty of them! One thing is for certain … if Bloomberg makes it onto the debate stage with Trump, you can bet he’ll go toe-to-toe … and very possibly wipe the floor with him.

    Quite frankly, I’m not all that impressed with some of the current poll leaders. But as many before me have said, whoever ends up on the ballot on the Democratic side will definitely get my vote.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Great point Nan. There’s the usual hand wringing and chaos that commonly occurs during the primary process. But, in the end, we all need to get behind whoever ends up the nominee. Hell, we may not even know till the convention. I hope that’s not the case but this year, it could very well end up that way.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Unfortunately, I can’t vote in November, so I’ll be standing on the sidelines with the rest of the free world wringing my hands and hoping that the pretender in the Oval gets trounced… think BIG BLUE WAVE!

        Liked by 2 people

  5. I agree about the anti-corruption emphasis, and more power to the organized effort you describe. I do think it discourages voters, but I’m not so sure it’s a driving force to get people to the polls. People need to be inspired — and that isn’t yet happening—except with Bernie. And I concur with the very progressive NY Times columnist Michelle Goldberg (who supports Warren) that the concept that American democracy depends on “Bernie or Bust” is terrifying.
    I worry about a Michael Blooming-Bernie Sanders stand-off: two old white guys, one being accused of buying the election; the other seeking a “political revolution,” while the women, especially women of color, who led us to victory in 2018 are ignored.
    I continue to find Amy Klobuchar the most electable and appealing candidate. I thought her closing remarks in Friday night’s debate were among the most moving and inspiring we’ve heard. David Leonhardt, in today’s Times, describes Klobuchar and Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown as “Trump’s Worst Nightmares.” I was sorry when Brown bowed out, in deference to Biden, and though I think it’s too late for him to reenter, he could be a powerful VP choice if Klobuchar could break through—as she seems to be doing.
    But that doesn’t engage people of color. How we do that remains an all-important question.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/10/opinion/amy-klobuchar-sherrod-brown-2020.amp.html

    Liked by 2 people

    1. For what it’s worth … I like Amy as well. Unfortunately, I don’t think she has the backing she needs to progress much further. It’s sad that so many people are stuck in “old politics.”

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Agreed Annie. I don’t know that it motivates voters either. But, in the context of Trump’s complete corruption of the presidency, I do believe our nominee must clearly distinguish themselves from him as it pertains to what he’s doing. In other words, how will he or she conduct themselves as president? What will they do to ensure an ethical administration if they’re elected? How will they tackle dark money and undue influence from corporations and the wealthy? It can’t be the only thing, obviously, but it must be a major portion of the platform, in my view.
      Also, I too wish Sherrod Brown would have stayed in. Being from Ohio, I know him pretty well. He’s well-liked there and really knows how to connect with white working class voters. While Trump won the state by 8 points, I believe he won his race by over 5 as well. He should be on everyone’s short list for V.P. even though I do believe a woman or person of color has to be on that list as well…depending on the nominee of course. Still a long way to go Annie.

      Liked by 1 person

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