The statement "all politicians are corrupt" has as much truth to it as "all Muslims are terrorists" and "all Christians are ignorant bigots."
But here’s the trap in American politics: there’s one political party that makes nearly no attempt to disguise its duplicity. Many of them lie so badly and so often most of us are numb to it. The other political party does only a slightly better job representing the people.
The trouble is, the average voter can no longer tell which is which.
As a result, most of us have been left worshipping empty idols which no longer have any relevance. The party conservatives swear stands up for the little guy has been purchased at a discount by establishment corporatists. But the Democrats? Their fall from grace just took a little longer.
Let’s take a look at how bad people corrupted good names and ideas — and caused millions of people to turn their backs on politics altogether.
How Corporate Democrats Failed America
The state of the Democratic Party is not Trump’s doing.
A lot of Americans entered the 2016 political season expecting to see the party of progress do battle with the party of regressive politics. After Obama, what else could it be?
What we saw instead was the most badly acted political pageant in modern history. The Republican nominee rode a wave of false populism to victory while the Democratic Party did what it appears to have been designed to do from the beginning: it folded like a cheap tent and paved the way for an unprecedented corporatist takeover.
And what have they done since? Faced with their first real chance to fire a decisive shot across the bow that is the health care "debate," Democratic-minded "traitors" led by Bernie Sanders tried to get the Democratic Party to prove it can provide sound governance with the will of the people in mind.
They wanted to take another baby step toward universal health care by allowing American patients to import vastly less expensive prescription drugs from Canada and other countries.
It goes without saying that Republicans said "no" as many of them say "no" to everything else that resembles progress. But the big surprise was the falling-away of the Corporate Democrat mask. Like termites from a disturbed log, a handful of 'Crats rose up to join GOP in forestalling real change in health care.
- Cory Booker (New Jersey)
- Bob Casey (Pennsylvania)
- Joe Donnelly (Indiana)
- Bob Menendez (New Jersey)
- Patty Murray (Washington)
- Mark Warner (Virginia)
Guess who voted for the prescription drug amendment? Ted Cruz.
On this issue, at least, Ted Cruz was more progressive than Cory Booker. The Cory Booker who is even now still being named among the likeliest nominees for the Democratic ticket in 2020.
The Cory Booker who has received more cash donations from the pharmaceutical industry than nearly any other American senator who calls themselves a Democrat. Mark Warner from Virginia pulled in "merely" $168,000 before betraying us.
PolitiFact quibbled about the "symbolic" nature of the amendment, but not with the names of the Democrats who voted nay nor with the dollars raised from for-profit enterprise by folks who claim to represent the good of the public.
It should be noted that your humble writer is closer to the Marxist end of the Liberal swimming pool than to Booker’s spot in the shallow end. I harbor no secret ambitions that we’ll see universal health care so long as the GOP controls the whole of American government.
But PolitiFact’s point about Bernie’s amendment being a symbolic gesture makes it more damning for Democrats — not less.
They were faced with the choice of placing a politically harmless vote to reassure their voters they still have our back -- that they still have ideals, even without a way forward to implement them. Instead, they caved at the very first challenge.
They failed. This is not the time to equivocate — not when the federal government stands so close to collapse already.
The Erosion of Trust
If you’ve been following along, you know why everything we’ve just talked about is appalling and dangerous. People must remain invested in the idea of government even if they hate everything about the execution.
But when we see the political party which has stood — accurately or not — as the last bastion of reasonableness in America bow its head to greed and shortsightedness, where does that leave our trust in government?
And by government, I mean not as a collection of people — but as a process? As an ideal?
Judging by the numbers of participating voters in America, we don’t trust ourselves to place an informed vote because we don’t trust anybody who runs for office. It’s a self-fulfilling prophesy that only gets broken when the mold does.
Ask a random person on the street if they voted in November and they’ll probably say "no." Ask them why and their answer will almost invariably be “because I didn’t trust either candidate” or "because all politicians are corrupt."
It’s not true. It’s never been true. Passionate and pro-social leadership is what America was built on.
Good people aren’t dying out — not by a long shot. But they increasingly can’t compete in a world where even folks with good intentions aren’t too noble to lower themselves for a handout if it means job security.
And is it possible that the failure resides not exclusively in American politics or its commingling with late-stage capitalism, but with a foundational flaw in human nature?
Greed presents and spreads the way any disease does. Insulating ourselves from it means taking away the tools our leaders use to sell out their values.
It means robust campaign finance reform — at a minimum. Have we had any recent and meaningful bipartisan efforts to get even a speck of that accomplished?
The silence is deafening and terrifying.
It’s clear that if we want our leaders to behave themselves, we must hand-pick them ourselves with unmerciful attention to detail. And so long as greed and unscrupulousness doesn’t divide itself cleanly along party lines or wear a convenient lapel pin, our search for leaders needs to go far beyond the little "R" or "D" beside their names.