I laughed when Maryland Congressman John Sarbanes was tapped to lead the extremely partisan Democracy Reform Task Force. Democrats stinging from their Clinton catastrophe haven’t stopped spreading the word that our system of government is under attack, but the important question is not whether our democracy is at risk. It’s why anyone would trust one angry political party to be in charge of “reform.”
We all know that “government ethics” is an oxymoron. Abuses like corruption are hard to miss and harder to ignore, but sneaky bad behaviors like propaganda and disinformation do even more damage because they are harder to spot.
It has been a tough few years for public sector ethics. While Congress pontificates about fairness, rights, and justice we still don’t have any noticeable support for term limits. Lawmakers only recently passed limits on insider trading on Capitol Hill. The subtler types of unethical behavior are the ones we don’t see coming, though. They undermine what America stands for and what Americans believe in. Political rhetoric that distorts the truth or silences dissent, catering to special interests, pandering to big money campaign donors, even selecting groups of voters like Hispanics and LGBT Americans for legislative favoritism all point to how ethics in Washington is good for lip service and little else.
The rise of Hillary Clinton to leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination speaks volumes about America’s ability to look the other way, as does Barack Obama’s casual attitude towards the powers permitted his office. As the political stakes and pressure to appease fringe groups grow, ethics will increasingly become something to disregard for the sake of a cause, not something we use to guide our actions.
Baby Boomers are still getting over their scorched retinas and flashbacks. We’ve been through the ups and down of America’s fondness for meth, which means when you get a cold you have to sign your name to feel better. Marijuana was the bane of our youth. Now it’s quasi-legal, taxable fun. In 2017 the drug crisis of choice is a difficult to spell catchall for narcotic pain killers and a windfall for Congress because it’s something both sides can agree on: an opioid drug epidemic.
There is fake news and then there is fake politics. Anyone who trusts the news puts their beliefs at risk. News is entertainment. We should regard it with suspicion no matter where it comes from.
Fake politics is more insidious and damaging. The more cynical among us have learned never to trust a politician no matter how much we want to believe what they say.
Congress proposes lots of bills. It gives House and Senate members something to do when they aren’t busy putting on a circus like their Russian snipe hunt. We hear about bills when they are important enough to stand a chance of becoming law and especially when they punch a hot button. Some of the hype is true.
It’s been almost a week since we heard calls for unity on Capitol Hill. That’s what tragedy means to politicians. It’s an opportunity for speeches and press releases. This kind of empty talk is probably as much togetherness as our senators and representatives can endure. Holding hands isn’t really their style and negative politics sells. Do we approve?