Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Progressives And Corruption

I think we have to consider the possibility that many progressives do not actually care about corruption.

I have operated to date on the belief that uneven reporting, which highlights Republican corruption (though Duke Cunningham was quite awhile ago now) while burying Democratic corruption on page A14, was sufficient explanation for the lack of outrage by the populace. If we could just get the stories on Dodd, Murtha, Feinstein, Rangel, Frank, Visclosky, Moran, Waters, Richardson, Geithner, Daschle, all those Fannie and Freddie guys – the list does go on, doesn’t it? – out into the open, then people would see, they would start to get it, that this is not generally a bipartisan problem, a Washington problem, but a 90% Democrat problem (larger numbers of corrupt players, worse corruption per incident, it adds up, y’know?). And then, brethren, then we would finally start making some progress in the national discussion, followed by electoral progress.

That is what we hoped last year, too, with the Norman Hsu/Clinton, Blogojevich, Jackson Jr., Rezko, Jefferson, Spitzer, Mahoney – wow, who am I forgetting here, it’s been so long – and yep, the Republicans had Ted Stevens to throw into that mix…

Where was I? The lists overwhelm me. Haven’t we hoped this every year? Every Kennedy? Hasn’t it been our working plan to get the information out despite mainstream media reluctance, and let electoral nature take its course? We have advocated sunlight as the best treatment for corruption.

Let’s rethink this. Certainly there are some progressives who care deeply about government corruption, as evidenced by watchdog groups of liberal bent that have nonetheless blown the whistle on Democrats, sometimes better than the conservative groups have. Also, I am very happy to give credit where it is due today, to Democratic NH Congressman Paul Hodes, sponsoring legislation to separate earmarks from donations. Good on him. I have even read HuffPo and Kos Diary essays that seemed sincere on the topic – I am not recalling specifics, but I feel pretty sure of it. That professional politicians and handlers minimise the scandal doesn’t bother me that much, as I expect that. I now think I have been overestimating the honor of the average Democrat, and that bothers me.

Here’s the difficulty: the information has gotten out in sufficient quantity that a reasonably alert progressive would at least be curious. Knowing that the accusations agains “his guys” are not 50/50 but 90/10, intellectual honesty would require that one at least go and find out if it’s 70/30, or even if it actually is 50/50. Discounting for spin, discounting for there being an increase in prominent Democrats, discounting for selective outrage…

Even a deeply partisan Democrat, using all available reasonable excuses and being mindful of Republican perfidy, would have to conclude that there is at least something seriously wrong with the national Democratic power structure – that Obama, Reid, and Pelosi have not been quite honest about their desire to deal with corruption in government – which they claimed was of first importance to them.

As a comparison, look how quickly many progressives have gotten off the Obama bandwagon around the Gitmo, wiretap, and interrogation issues. Though I think progressives are wrong on many of these topics, I fully grant that these things have indeed proved to be important to them, and many have stuck to their guns (bad choice of metaphor for progressives, I know, but it was fun), criticising the new administration.

I am drawn rather reluctantly to the conclusion that not enough Democrats are bothered by corrupt government. It is no longer a knowledge deficit but an attitude, a willingness to embrace threadbare excuses. Well, I’m sure the Republicans are doing it too. Probabaly worse. Definitely worse. Everyone knows that. And corporations robbing us blind, too. And corporations - they’re mostly Republicans – so I was right all along. Just a few bad Democratic apples. It’s just how things get done. Politics is a messy business. Such explanations are familiar, they have acquired the patina of age, but they would no longer satisfy a person genuinely seeking the truth.

Dam’ depressing. It means we have to get 70% of the Independent vote rather than 50%. If there is a solid core of half the Democratic Party that is simply unmoved by any level of corruption, one of our best issues is taken from us. The DNC can throw out a sacrifice for appearance's sake and draw the fangs of the issue.

To get 70% of the Independent vote, we will have to field candidates who deserve that.


Der Hahn said...

The more you feel government needs to put its thumb on the scales to look out for the ‘little guy’, the more you are going to view most corruption (earmarks for campaign contributions, for example) as good old Tammany Hall 'honest graft'. The only real corruption occurs when the ‘big guy’ gets favors from the government (Duke Cunningham as an example), and much otherwise questionable activity can be excused if the means support a progressive end.

bs king said...

I was actually thinking something similar to Der Hahn.

I think liberals and conservatives have very different standards for what they consider "very bad" corruption.

Liberals seem to hate the personal life hypocrisy type know, the Larry Craig-esque issues. My guess is you'd consider those more character issues than corruption, but I think for liberals those things are the corruption, and subsequently, they don't do them as often (or when they do they make different excuses).

AS for the rest of the corruption, I do think it's viewed as far more systemic than anything, and if the system is already kicking good people out of their homes, denying them health care, etc etc, than the system was already bad and therefore you couldn't make it worse right?

However, I think most Republicans have had to deal with the idea of private morality vs larger ideals in other parts of their lives, so they are less excited by these issues. Even though they are the family value party, the large population of Christians in the Republican party works to their advantage here. One can't make it far in Evangelical America without being disappointed....pastors have affairs, Bible study leaders lie, etc. All thinking Christians over the age of, um, I'll say...20....have probably had someone they really looked up to fail. That's why I think personal issue scandals affect them less. They know that just because a good family man cheats it doesn't mean no one should be a good family man.

And yet, liberals think that personal hypocrisy (not the Obama-esque political hypocrisy) is new to conservatives and is going to shake them out of their stupor to realize how wrong they were.

That's my theory on it anyway.

terri said...

only tangentially related....
This makes me imagine a younger, crankier AVI. :-)

Thought you might get a kick out of Metalutheran/Fearsome Comrade. He sometimes cracks me up and other times greatly irritates me.

Robert Mitchell Jr. said...

Democrats are more likely to be involved at some level with government then Republicans. Hard to see the corruption when it's your bowl you're breaking.

cold pizza said...

It's all about getting YOUR tribe in power. Use any weapon to attack the other tribe.

The Dem party today is not the party of JFK or even FDR. The term "liberal" has been hijacked by the intolerant.

They don't care about corruption--it's not about the money. It's about being on top of the heap. -cp