A Typology of Corruption for Campaign 2016 and Beyond

“Let us never deceive ourselves, Nefud. The truth is a powerful weapon. We know how we overwhelmed the Atreides. We did it with wealth.” — Baron Harkonnen, Frank Herbert’s Dune.

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Even though it’s early days in Campaign 2016, we’ve seen several episodes that could be colorably framed as corruption eruptions — the Clintons, naturally, Chris Christie, naturally, Scott Walker, naturally, Jeb Bush, naturally — but the press coverage has a common failing: The reporters treat each “scandal” in isolation, as a story about a candidate, rather than a story about a system. I’d argue that what we need is a “Corruption Leaderboard,” with the mortal sins up top, and the venial episodes lower down, and which would enable voters to compare and rank the candidates synoptically. This post will not devise that leaderboard, but I hope to make my own small contribution to move its design forward: A typology of corruption, which will make forms of corruption as practiced by individual candidates commensurable. But what do we mean by corruption?

Corruption today is generally framed in terms of a quid pro quo (or, in journalese, a “smoking gun”). For example, you are stopped for speeding, hand the cop a twenty, and the cop tears up the ticket and lets you off with a warning. (I understand that in Malaysia, one begins such a transaction with the phrase: “How can we settle the matter?”) That’s a quid pro quo, hence (so it’s said) corruption. But if you play golf with the chief of police, write the recommendation that gets their kid into private school, throw a lot of business to the real estate firm run by their spouse, and then — mirabile dictu — win the no-bid contract for the police department’s new Stingray unit, that’s not corruption, because there’s no quid pro quo. But that’s ridiculous, and Zephyr Teachout explains in Politico just how ridiculous it is:

In McCutcheon v. FEC, the landmark case that threw out aggregate limits on campaign spending last week, Chief Justice John Roberts made clear that for the majority of this current Supreme Court, corruption means quid pro quo corruption. In other words, if it’s not punishable by a bribery statute, it’s not corruption.

This is a reasonable mistake to make at a dinner party. But it’s a disastrous mistake to make for democracy, when the stakes are so high. Essentially, Roberts used a criminal law term—of recent vintage and unclear meaning—to describe a constitutional-level concept. It is as if he used a modern New York statute describing what “speech” means to determine the scope of the First Amendment.

To hear Roberts—or his fellow justices Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy—tell it, corruption isn’t corruption if there isn’t a quid pro quo.

But that’s not how the Framers understood corruption. (Teachout’s book, Corruption in America, is said to be excellent, but I don’t own a copy, and so I’m going to rely on her earlier article in the Cornell Law Review, “The Anti-Corruption Principle,” which is available online [PDF].) Here’s Teachout’s definition, which subsumes quid pro quo but is more subtle and complex, hence more true to life:

While 1787 delegates disagreed on when corruption might occur, they brought a general shared understanding of what political corruption meant. To the delegates, political corruption referred to self-serving use of public power for private ends, including, without limitation, bribery, public decisions to serve private wealth made because of dependent relationships, public decisions to serve executive power made because of dependent relationships, and use by public officials of their positions of power to become wealthy. Two features of the definitional framework of corruption at the time deserve special attention, because they are not frequently articulated by all modern academics or judges. The first feature is that corruption was defined in terms of an attitude toward public service, not in relation to a set of criminal laws. The second feature is that citizenship was understood to be a public office. The delegates believed that non-elected citizens wielding or attempting to influence public power can be corrupt and that elite corruption is a serious threat to a polity.

Since “dependent relationships” seem to be key to Teachout’s analysis, I’m going to propose a typology that’s based on social relationships, as follows:

1) Fealty

2) Outsourcing

3) Personal Networking

Now let’s look at Campaign 2016 using this typology.

Corruption as Fealty: Walker and Rubio

The fealty model of corruption — the very simple, even primitive dependency relation where a client politician pledges fealty to a wealthy patron — was pioneered most visibly, as so much else in contemporary politics that is degrading and damaging, by Newt Gingrich, who managed — despite having no prospect of electoral success whatever — to take gambling squillionaire Sheldon Adelson for a cool $15 million. Pocket change for Adelman, of course, who is America’s eighth richest person, but a big payday for a grifter like Newtie. And if that’s not a “dependent relationship,” I’d like to know what is. If we want to know what the workings of such a relationship look like from the inside, we can listen in to this conversation between Scott Walker and knuckle-dragging squillionaire David Koch — or, more precisely, between Scott Walker and a prankster named Ian Murphy, posing as knuckle-dragging squillionaire David Koch. From the transcript at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel; the context is the Wisconsin Capitol protests, where Walker made his national reputation as a Republican who stomps Democrats:

WALKER: My sense is hell, I’ll talk to [the Occupiers], if they want to yell at me for an hour, you know I’m used to that, I can deal with that, but I’m not negotiating.

“KOCH”: Bring a baseball bat. That’s what I’d do.

WALKER: [Laughs] I have one in my office; you’d be happy with that. [Laughs] I have a Slugger with my name on it.

“KOCH”: Beautiful. …

“KOCH”: Now what else could we do for you down there?

WALKER: Well the biggest thing would be — and your guy on the ground (Americans For Prosperity President Tim Phillips) is probably seeing this, it would be well, two things. … So the one thing in your question, the more groups that are encouraging people not just to show up but to call lawmakers and tell them to hang firm with the governor, the better. Because the more they get that assurance, the easier it is for them to vote yes. The other thing is more long term, and that is after this, you know the coming days and weeks and months ahead, particularly in some of these more swing areas, a lot of these guys are gonna need, they don’t actually need ads for them but they’re going to need a message put out reinforcing why this was a good thing to do for the economy and a good thing to do for the state. So the extent that that message is out over and over again is obviously a good thing.

“KOCH”: Right, right. We’ll back you any way we can. But what we were thinking about the crowd was, uh, was planting some troublemakers.

WALKER: You know, well, the only problem with that — because we thought about that. The problem with — my only gut reaction to that would be, right now the lawmakers I’ve talked to have just completely had it with them. … My only fear would be if there’s a ruckus caused is that would scare the public into thinking maybe the governor has to settle to avoid all these problems. ….

“KOCH”: Well, good; good. It’s good catching up with ya’.

WALKER: Yeah, well thanks. This is an exciting time. …

“KOCH”: [Laughs] Well, I tell you what, Scott: Once you crush these bastards I’ll fly you out to Cali (California) and really show you a good time.

WALKER: All right, that would be outstanding. Thanks for all the support in helping us move the cause forward, and we appreciate it, and we’re doing it the just and right thing for the right reasons and it’s all about getting our freedoms back.

“KOCH”: Absolutely. And, you know, we have a little bit of a vested interest as well. [Laughs]

WALKER: Well that’s just it, the bottom line is we’re gonna get the world moving here ’cause it’s the right thing to do.

“KOCH”: Alright then.

WALKER: Thanks a million!

“KOCH”: Bye-bye!


“Thanks a million.” Hmm. Anyhow, yes, that’s my favorite part, but the part where “Koch” suggests planting agent provocateurs among the Occupiers, and Walker waves him off, not because that would be wrong, but because he doesn’t think he needs to go that far, runs a close second. Again, if that’s not a dependent relationship, I’d like to know what is. Of course, in real life, Walker is “King of Kochistan,” having sucked down Koch Brothers “mother’s milksince 2010.

Of course, Walker isn’t the only candidate with a squillionaire owner benefactor. Ted Cruz has squillionaire hedgie and sociopathic model railroader Robert Mercer, and Marco Rubio has his own squillionaire, auto dealer Normam Braman, and just bagged a second, wage thief and yachtsman Larry Ellison. And if you think those relationships aren’t dependent, then you probably think the only thing that’s for sale in Brooklyn is the Clinton headquarters. Here’s an example of how it all works with Rubio:

Marco Rubio lately told the New York Times that Braman never asked him for anything. But many of Braman’s ideas about Israel as an answer to the Holocaust, about the scourge of delegitimization of Israel, about Obama’s criticism of Israel, and about the negative role of the U.N. were echoed by Rubio in his speech in March. Hardly surprising, given that Braman has been a father figure to Rubio and met him in Israel days after the senator was first elected, in 2010.

Fealty. And, needless to say, ka-ching.

Corruption as Outsourcing: The Bush Dynasty

We now turn to the extraordinary and innovative campaign “machine” being built by the Bush dynasty in support of Jebbie’s attempt at a Bush restoration. I use the word “restoration” advisedly, because the Bush campaign is, indeed, dynastic. The Wall Street Journal:

Jeb Bush, who opened the door to a presidential campaign five months ago, is now reaping a record-setting haul thanks to a donor network that stretches back to his father’s election to Congress in 1966.

“The Bush family gave us the chance to serve,” said donor David D. Aufhauser, who worked as general counsel for the Treasury Department under former President George W. Bush. “So we are loyal.”

(Note that “So we are loyal” expresses, precisely, a relation of fealty. But the Bush campaign architecture goes beyond the dependent — hence corrupt — relation of fealty, as we shall see.)

This ready-made fundraising operation offers Mr. Bush a financial and organizational advantage in what is expected to be a crowded and costly Republican Party primary. At the same, it yokes him even closer to a political dynasty…. The Wall Street Journal identified 326 donors who hosted fundraisers this year for Mr. Bush’s super PAC, based on invitations and news reports compiled by the Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan government watchdog.

One in five were either members of the “Team 100,” those who raised at least $100,000 for the Republican National Committee during George H.W. Bush’s 1988 presidential campaign—or “Pioneers” or “Rangers,” who collected at least $100,000 or $200,000 for George W. Bush’s national campaigns.

Nearly a quarter worked in at least one of the Bush White Houses or received a presidential appointment; 24 were tapped by Mr. Bush’s father or brother to serve as ambassadors; 46 worked in Mr. Bush’s administration in Florida or were appointed to advisory boards. A number of donors belong to more than one of these categories.

Mr. Bush’s top allies include 11 billionaires, six former and current owners of professional sports teams and former Vice President Dan Quayle. There is an internationally competitive sailor, a former chairman of the U.S. Export-Import Bank, as well as the author of “Nice Guys Finish Rich: The Secrets of a Super Salesman.”

Mr. Bush’s Republican rivals are seeking support from a similar pool of well-heeled donors. But no one can match the deep-pocketed, multigenerational network boasted by the Bushes, many of whom have been close family friends for decades. Some paid visits to the family compound in Kennebunkport, Me., and watched the Bush children grow up.

“When you hitch your wagon to the Bushes, you become part of an extended family,” said Dirk Van Dongen, a Washington lobbyist and former Pioneer and Ranger who helped organize two fundraisers for Jeb Bush. “They remember their friends and they are good to their friends.”

Once again, these are relationships of fealty (“good to their friends”) and collectively form a literal, not a metaphorical, dynasty (“multigenerational network”; “extended family”)[3]). However, there are a number of institutional choices for organizing such dynastic relations; one could, for example, proclaim a crusade. Or the campaign could sign up those members of the extended family who are especially competent, and make them members of the “team.” The choice made by the Bush campaign is interesting: They’ve chosen to outsource key campaign functions. The Associated Press:

The traditional presidential campaign may be getting a dramatic makeover in Jeb Bush’s bid for the White House as he prepares to turn some of a campaign’s central functions over to a separate political organization that can raise unlimited amounts of money.

The concept, in development for months as the former Florida governor has raised tens of millions of dollars for his Right to Rise super PAC, would endow that organization not just with advertising on Bush’s behalf, but with many of the duties typically conducted by a campaign….

The exact design of the strategy remains fluid as Bush approaches an announcement of his intention to run for the Republican nomination in 2016. But at its center is the idea of placing Right to Rise in charge of the brunt of the biggest expense of electing Bush: television advertising and direct mail.

Right to Rise could also break into new areas for a candidate-specific super PAC, such as data gathering, highly individualized online advertising and running phone banks. Also on the table is tasking the super PAC with crucial campaign endgame strategies: the operation to get out the vote and efforts to maximize absentee and early voting on Bush’s behalf.

The campaign itself would still handle those things that require Bush’s direct involvement, such as candidate travel. It also would still pay for advertising, conduct polling and collect voter data. But the goal is for the campaign to be a streamlined operation that frees Bush to spend less time than in past campaigns raising money, and as much time as possible meeting voters.

For Bush, the potential benefits are enormous. Campaigns can raise only $2,700 per donor for the primary and $2,700 for the general election. But super PACs are able to raise unlimited cash from individuals, corporations and groups such as labor unions.

In theory, that means a small group of wealthy Bush supporters could pay for much of the work of electing him by writing massive checks to the super PAC.

That’s not a bug. It’s a feature. The difficulty here comes under the heading of “coordination” between the PACs and campaign proper, which is illegal. How is the seventh tentacle to know what the second tentacle is doing?

The architects of the plan believe the super PAC’s ability to legally raise unlimited amounts of money outweighs its primary disadvantage, that it cannot legally coordinate its actions with Bush or his would-be campaign staff.

“Nothing like this has been done before,” said David Keating, president of the Center for Competitive Politics, which opposes limits on campaign finance donations. “It will take a high level of discipline to do it.”

Interestingly, Bush III’s approach to the 2016 Presidential campaign is parallel Bush II’s approach to the Iraq War, which also outsourced core functions (which, therefore, both Bushes must regard as having achieved strategic goals congenial to them[1], given that they’re emulating it). From the RAND Corporation’s Molly Dunigan, “A lesson from Iraq war: How to outsource war to private contractors”:

Ten years after it began, the Iraq war might best be remembered as America’s most privatized military engagement to date, with contractors hired by the Pentagon actually outnumbering troops on the ground at various points…. This degree of privatization is unprecedented in modern warfare. … [T]he US military has developed a growing dependence on private contractors – and for a wide range of functions traditionally handled by military personnel.

Indeed, contractors were used not only for base support functions, but core “state violence” functions like security, intelligence, and torture, paralleling Bush’s outsourcing of hitherto core campaign functions. Moreover, the Iraq outsourcing effort had exactly the same co-ordination issues that the Bushies recognize their campaign will have. Dunigan continues:

In a 2008 RAND survey, 35 percent of diplomatic personnel who had worked with armed contractors in Iraq between 2003 and 2008 reported having to manage the consequences of actions by armed contractors against local citizens. And nearly 40 percent had witnessed armed contractors acting in ways that were unnecessarily threatening, arrogant, or belligerent while deployed, including throwing objects at local civilians to clear them off roadways.

The Council on Foreign Relations reinforces this point:

Thousands of private contractors in Iraq are operating outside the military chain of command, Singer says, making efforts to oversee—or, if necessary, punish—their behavior much more difficult.

In terms of future narratives, therefore, expect similar “mercenary eruptions” from outsourced operations of the Bush campaign; exposed yet plausibly deniable push-polling, for example, insulting the locals, or election fraud (as in Jebbie’s Florida 2000 operation[2]). Instituionally:

A complicating factor is that security contractors currently operate in something like legal “limbo.” There are no clear-cut guidelines for their status under international law, and many US laws don’t apply to non-US citizen contractors.

One can only think that the Bush campaign operation has chosen to create such a “limbo” for whatever advantages they may gain from it; in particular, that the risk of “mercenary eruptions” from co-ordination failures will be outweighed by the vast flows of wealth made available to them; AP, above, agrees.


Of course, the outsourcing model of political campaigns exemplifies corruption beyond the quid pro quo in every way imaginable; trivially, in looting by operatives, as in Iraq. More troublingly, the operational art of the outsourced Bush campaign can only be to co-ordinate without being seen to coordinate. This could be done in any number of ways: Winks and nods in the press; back-channels, hopefully secure, as in the Walker transcript above (“Thanks a million”); or, more subtly, the dynastic equivalent of “working toward the Fuhrer”, a feature of the Bush II White House,” where Bush operatives do what they know Bush needs to be done without being told, as people who have been “close family friends” for decades will be able to do.

If you regard a political campaign as “non-elected citizens wielding or attempting to influence public power” — and what else would a political campaign be? — then having key decisions made by weathy funders using winks and nods, back-channels, and by seemingly sponteneous actions, all in a completely unaccountable and opaque fashion, is corruption par excellence. It’s a return to “the smoke filled room,” except with smoke — and mirrors — concealing the room entirely.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the dynastic motivations of the Bush supporters who will be handling the outsourced functions of the campaign exemplify elite corruption as Teachout and the Framers understood it: “good to their friends” is, precisely, a case of “public decisions to serve executive power made because of dependent relationships,” when you remember that , for the Framers, “citizenship was understood to be a public office.”

Corruption as Personal Networking: The Clinton Dynasty

We now turn to the endless “drama” of the Clintons, where having a former Clinton operative like George Stephanopoulos can give the Clinton Foundation $50K and then blithely continue with his network commentary duties as if that were the most normal thing in the world, which at this point, I suppose, it is.

As a younger, but presumably more modern and even more feral, dynasty in the making, the Clintons have not adopted the more heirarchical, military/corporate campaign architecture that the more mature Bush dynasty has chosen. Rather, they have created a ginormous and ever-evolving hairball of tangled and conflicted personal and institutional relationships, a permanent campaign composed of the Clinton Foundation, the Clinton Campaign, and Clintonland, the personal networks that both Clintons have accreted over the years of, er, “public service.”

The Clinton Dynasty has what I see as the following distinctive features: First, the Clinton Foundation has actually done some good in the world, or at least can be seen to; it then serves as a useful public relations proxy for the Clinton dynasty as a whole. Second, the Clinton Foundation can obviously serve as a money-laundering/influence-peddling/plausible deniability machine on a reasonably large scale; after all, $2 billion is real money, even these days. Third, the Clintons clearly regard all relationships, whether public or private, as assets controlled by them personally, as Hillary Clinton’s destruction of public records kept on her private email server clearly shows. Fourth, like it or not, both Clintons are attractive and effective political personalities, far more so than the Bush clan. Two-time President Bill Clinton — dubbed by Obama his “explainer-in-chief” — was famous in Arkansas for his ability to “pat you on the back while pissing down your leg,” and Hillary Clinton, one might remember, won the popular vote in 2008 (if all the votes are counted) and all the big states despite the hatred of the political class, a tidal wave of misogyny, and the opposition of the Democratic apparatus. Fifth and finally, the Clintons have been extraordinarily lucky in their enemies, who seem to not to understand, with Talleyrand, that “revenge is a dish best served cold,” and let their hatred overwhelm their critical thinking skills and editorial abilities; Exhibit A is the Arkansas Project funded by squillionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, but currently on display are the (surely needless) errors in the latest piece of anti-Clinton oppo, Clinton Cash. For this reason, assaults on the Clintons can often be dismissed as more of the same; as indeed they often are.

Let’s just take the current Clinton scandal as exemplary, because (see above) they are all numbingly similar. From The Beltway Shopper Politico:

‘Hillary Clinton Sold Her Soul When They Accepted That Money’

LAAYOUNE, Western Sahara—A day after Bill Clinton feted donors and dignitaries at an extravagant Moroccan feast under a warm Marrakech night sky, a group of local Sahrawi Arabs gathered for tea in a far more humble setting here to share their outrage that Clinton’s family foundation had accepted millions of dollars from a company owned by a government accused of repressing their people.


The four men used to work as miners for a subsidiary of OCP, the state-owned phosphate company that paid more than $1 million to sponsor the lavish outdoor gala and the concurrent two-day meeting of the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation headlined by the former U.S. president. Its purpose was to highlight efforts by the foundation, its donors and the Moroccan government to improve the lives of marginalized people in North Africa and the Middle East, and Bill Clinton opened the event by praising OCP, King Mohammed VI and “Morocco’s longstanding friendship to my family and to the United States.”

For “friendship,” a suspicious, or realistic, mind would read, with Teachout, “dependent relationship,” especially given that in a monarchy, “Morocco” and “the King of Morocco” can be taken as functionally equivalent.

[T]he Clintons have had a long—and lucrative—relationship with Morocco. Moroccan King Mohammed VI, who was traveling abroad during last week’s CGI [Clinton Global Initiative] meeting in Marrakech, nonetheless loaned one of his palaces [!!] to Bill and Chelsea Clinton to stay in during the meeting, according to attendees. … [T]he state firm OCP has donated as much as $6 million over the years to the Clinton Foundation’s efforts….

There is no evidence that [Hillary Clinton] tailored her official positions to suit Morocco’s preferences because of personal or financial relationships.

Here we see Politico — in a supposed hit piece — adopted the quid pro quo definition of corruption in a manner than exonerates Clinton.

… In fact, Hillary Clinton’s relationship with Morocco’s government was pivotal in brokering last week’s Clinton Global Initiative meeting in Marrakech, according to sources familiar with the foundation’s inner workings. They say that, as CGI was considering options including Hong Kong and Singapore for possible international meetings, the former secretary of state, then serving on the foundation’s board, talked to the king about the Moroccan option, which emerged as the frontrunner.

Or, as Teachout puts it, “public decisions to serve private wealth made because of dependent relationships” (whether or not Clinton backed out of being the meeting host as her campaign launch approached, as she did).

As the campaign kickoff neared, the foundation proceeded with plans to hold the meeting in Marrakech with funding from OCP despite concerns of some foundation staffers about the political optics of affiliating with a state company tied to the occupation of Western Sahara and the controversial mining of a valuable natural resource, which some observers say violates international law. The approach the staffers settled on was “just to avoid using the word ‘Western Sahara’ and stay out of it,” said one source involved in the planning. “It’s not polite to your host.”

For “not polite to your host,” a suspicious, or realistic, mind would read, with Teachout, “endangering the dependent relationship.”

Leaving the key assumption in the Politico headline aside, it’s all there, isn’t it? Using the distinctive characteristics of the Clinton Dynasty as listed above, we have:

  1. The Clinton Foundation as a useful public relations proxy: That’s the “improve the lives of marginalized people” part (except, sadly, the people impacted by the phosphate mine in the Western Sahara).
  2. The Clinton Foundation as a money-laundering/influence-peddling/plausible deniability machine: That’s the part where Clinton decides not to host the “gala” — although two other members of the dynasty, Bill and Chelsea, stayed in the King’s palace — when her campaign is set to launch, even though every other aspect of the operation, including the money, remains intact.
  3. Relationships as assets controlled by the Clintons personally: The King of Morrocco has a relation with the Clintons personally, not with the officer of the Clinton Foundation, the Secretary of State, or the Presidential candidate. And if there’s any email from him to Clinton in any of those overlapping and conflicted capactities, it is gone where the woodbine twineth after Clinton nuked her email server.
  4. Both Clintons are attractive and effective political personalities: The gala happened, didn’t it?
  5. The Clintons have been extraordinarily lucky in their enemies: Politico gave them a free pass by using the quid pro quo test for corruption, did they not?

And, of course, it’s all corrupt: A hairball of conflicted relationships enabled by public relations, optimized for influence peddling, with evidence openly shredded where necessary, while the Clintons remain, charmingly, more than likeable enough, and where the assaults of their enemies misfire enough to turn any hit into a miss. And it all comes down, as Teachout would say, to “self-serving use of public power for private ends.”

Does anybody really believe that the Clinton who takes off the Secretary of State hat and puts on the Clinton Foundation hat, or who takes off the Clinton Foundation hat and puts on the Campaign hat, is not the same Hillary Clinton? She’d have to be a sociopath to keep her mind and heart that compartmentalized, no? But if we accept the Clinton Dynasty’s “attitude toward public service,” as we put it, that’s what we’d have to believe. I don’t believe it.

And so, readers, this is my typology of corruption as exemplified by the campaign operations of 2016. Frankly, I’m not sure which is the most pernicious. It may be that the mascots and boy toys of squillionaires (Adelson, Gingrich; Rubio, Braman; Walker, Koch) are less pernicious than riper and gamier operations like Bush’s model of outsourcing, or Clinton’s personal networking, simply because the corruption among the mascots is so visible and obvious. If “transparency” — in the sense of utterly transparent motives — be the criterion, then a hairball is more dangerous than a machine, and so the corruption leaderboard would read:

#1 Clinton (personal networking)
#2 Bush (outsourcing)
#3 Rubio, Walker, Cruz (individual owners benefactors)

But I don’t think there’s much separation between the top two contenders. And, of course, people like Bernie Sanders, who depend on small donors, hardly figure as players at all. Readers, what do you think, and why?


[1] Beyond, that is, the simple distribution of spoils to cronies. See Greg Palast, “How Bush Won the War in Iraq – Really!,” for one very persuasive theory.

[2] Note that Jebbie’s election fraud was not of a scale to cause Gore to lose Florida (and hence the Presidency). The 308,000 Florida Democrats who voted for Bush lost Florida for Gore (and most certainly not the fleabite from Nader voters, more’s the pity). Bush’s felon’s list fraud accounted for at most 173,000 votes; the “butterfly ballot” for at most 3,407. Like so much else, the “Bush stole Florida by 537 votes” and “Nader [neener neener neener]” are false.

[3] The creation of an aristocracy of inherited wealth is, in fact, just what one would expect from the conservative invocation of “family values.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
This entry was posted in Guest Post, Politics on by .

About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. JEHR

    And so I, in Canada, asked myself about corruption in our politics. Very conveniently, Wikipedia listed some Canadian government scandals from which corruption can be deduced. (quoted from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Canadian_political_scandals

    “Shoe Store Project
    Prime Minister’s Office under Stephen Harper plans $2M, government-controlled media centre to replace current National Press Theatre (which is run by press gallery staff, instead of those from the PMO).[3]
    Conservative Party 2007”

    “Julie Couillard scandal
    Conservative Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier resigned after leaving sensitive NATO documents in the home of Julie Couillard, an ex-girlfriend with links to the Hells Angels biker gang.[4]
    Conservative Party 2007”

    “In and Out scandal
    Alleged circumvention of election finance rules by the Conservatives in the 2006 election campaign.
    Conservative Party 2007”

    “Afghan Detainees Inquiry or Prorogation 2
    Prorogued government a second time claiming it was for the Olympics to avoid inquiry into the maltreatment of Afghan detainees. Harper was found to be in Contempt of Parliament for refusing to share information. The first time in Canadian history
    Conservative Party 2010”

    “Robocall scandal
    Allegations of widespread voter fraud occurring during the 2011 Canadian federal election. Robotic and live calls to voters are claimed to have been made in 38 ridings. Currently under investigation by the RCMP and
    Elections Canada.
    Conservative Party 2012”

    “The ETS Scandal
    An ongoing Canadian political scandal involving alleged wrongdoing by Canadian government officials in the award of a $400-million information technology services contract and allegations of political interference in the ensuing cover-up.
    Conservative Party 2000s”

    “F35 Fighter Jet Scandal
    Involved misleading costs of F35 Fighter Jets to replace former CF18s
    Conservative Party 2012”

    “CFIA Scandal
    is an ongoing scandal involving food inspection services being insufficient to the Canadian public this comes after the budget cuts to Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the temporary closure of XL Meats due to a widespread E-coli outbreak in Alberta[5]
    Canadian Food Inspection Agency 2012”

    “Canadian Senate expenses scandal
    An ongoing investigation concerning the expense claims of certain Canadian senators which began in late 2012. Senators Mike Duffy, Mac Harb, Pamela Wallin, and Patrick Brazeau claimed travel and housing expenses from the Senate for which they were not eligible.” (above quoted from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Canadian_political_scandals )

    Many of the laws passed in Harper’s omnibus bills could also be considered corruptions of the public good, for example:

    Getting rid of environmental laws so that tar sands development is unimpeded;

    Diluting the role of Elections Canada in advising population to vote in elections;

    Requiring strict identification before voting which will affect indigenous and the poor;

    Passing anti-terrorism laws that impinge on citizens’ freedoms and Charter Rights;

    Making retroactive laws so that the illegal actions of RCMP in destroying gun law data before a bill becomes law are now no longer illegal.
    And we haven’t even mentioned the closing of scientific libraries and the destruction of scientific information; the silencing of government scientists; etc.

    We are not strangers to corruption and our Prime Minister’s Contempt for Parliament (which continues unabated) needs to be addressed as the biggest corruption of all. Unfortunately, for many of these “corruptions” there is no penalty!!

    1. barutanseijin

      The Conservatives are indeed awful. No argument here. But the Liberals are just as much a business party and just as corrupt. And at the provincial level you see these opportunists sliding from NDP to the Liberals, from the Conservatives to the PQ, from the PQ to CAQ etc etc etc. They will talk various talks but will always walk the neo-liberal walk.

      It’s pretty much the same anywhere except S. America. From Japan to England, the formerly social democratic parties have accepted neo-liberalism. Even parties like Podemos or Syriza aren’t really contesting neo-liberalism. This is a path that leads nowhere.

      1. peter

        Except S. America? That’s saying quite something. Living in Brazil, I can produce a list of political corruption scandals that North America or Europe would never be able to match. The political system is so rotten at its core, that it’s virtually a given for politicians of (nearly) all parties to equate to crooks. And Brazil is by no means an exception. One difference though is that the situation here is probably improving in terms of media coverage and impunity. Society is demanding political reform that includes the issue of party funding and that can only be a good thing, but the status-quo and traditional corporate vested interests in the current criminal arrangement are hard to defeat. In the case of the US I interpret it almost as a lost cause. Democracy has been lost to corporate interests, the slippery slope continues and I don’t see how that can be reverted, especially given the 2-party non-choice system where both parties are essentially the same thing. It’s the Corleones versus the Barzinis. In the case of Brazil there’s still hope, albeit a small one. There’s some semblance of democracy and hopefully that won’t go to waste. History is still being written here and the outcome not yet conclusive.

        1. barutanseijin

          I didn’t mean to say there was no corruption in S. America, just that as you say, there’s some contestation there.

          I agree that neo-liberalism has pretty much captured the American political imaginary. Reformers & do-gooders of various stripes dream of business plans and market-based solutions. Education “reformers” are a good example (when they’re not just out and out frauds, as many of them are). America doesn’t even have a 2nd International/social democratic NDPish party that could sell out. That’s how far gone America is. So take heart Canada, having your Bob Raes is a good sign!

    2. Nathanael

      Harper’s a monster; frankly anti-democratic.

      The Liberals are worthless.

      The NDP should do a pretty good job though.

  2. John

    American corruption, a vast topic. Washington’s Blog has another growing list of examples posted on May 6th. http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2015/05/the-main-problem-in-america-corruption.html
    I think it important to constantly repeat that American exceptionalism is primarily fraud and corruption at world class levels. Our capitalism is predatory crony capitalism. Our oligarchs are as corrupt as any in Russia or China.
    We are a laughing stock when we prattle on internationally about American values.
    What is so beautiful about this corruption is that the perps realize that by keeping the volume levels of public discourse so high and chaotic, the calling out of the fraud is not really heard.

    1. Lambert Strether


      All the campaigns use public power for private ends, hence are corrupt as the Framers understood the term, but they organize their corruption differently according to the following patterns:

      The Bush dynasty’s campaign is organized like the Bush administration organized the Iraq war.

      The Clinton dynasty’s campaign is organized like everything the Clintons do is organized.

      The other candidates are small fry, owned by one or another squillionaire.

      Probably still too long though. It took me awhile to plow through everything and nail (as I think) each part of the thesis.

  3. Kurt Sperry

    Thanks for putting my fuzzy disquiet about the obvious corruption and inside dealing in political relationships into a clearer focus.

    The question for me becomes, “are there any historical examples of political cultures that have successfully resisted falling into these traps, and if so what did they do differently?” Because these subcategories of corruption look pretty universal, across both geographical and temporal space, it causes one to wonder how to attack them when so many of these games played seem sadly intrinsic to human nature and to political systems of all types and categories.

    “Power corrupts” is of course a banality, but it is so because it so often applies. How do we build methods of countering this seemingly intractable tendency of political systems to become corrupted in all the ways, gross and subtle, that corruption manifests itself in the presence of concentrations of power/wealth? Seeing what we are fighting more clearly and objectively is no doubt a good first step.

    1. hunkerdown

      Vested authority is the polar opposite of accountability. Until it is abolished, we will keep playing these same dramas over and over again for millennia, all the while nursing the (far too convenient) conceit that they’re somehow an inborn, intrinsic, inevitable part of the human condition.

  4. Steve H.

    “The reporters treat each “scandal” in isolation, as a story about a candidate, rather than a story about a system.”
    “To hear Roberts—or his fellow justices Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy—tell it, corruption isn’t corruption if there isn’t a quid pro quo.”

    Reminds me of parents paying for each others kids fundraising drives. Expensive crappy chocolate. Trips to Europe.

    You’re either inside the polis walls, or you’re not. You’re either on the bus or off the bus. Fit-In or Fit-Out. “… a chimp community first observed by Jane Goodall in Tanzania’s Gombe National Park split into two and one group then wiped out the other.”

    It’s not just a human problem. In Gombe, the troupe split when there weren’t enough resources to support the single large group. With humans, we have immense resources per unit biomass, but we sure do sequester them like no species in the history of the ‘verse.

  5. Clive

    “Let us never deceive ourselves, Nefud. The truth is a powerful weapon. We know how we overwhelmed the Atreides. We did it with wealth.” — Baron Harkonnen, Frank Herbert’s Dune.

    Yes, Baron. That and the ceaseless brutality. (I’m wondering if we’re closer to that, too, than we might like to imagine).

  6. barutanseijin

    “[…] the democratic republic officially knows nothing any more of property distinctions. In it wealth exercises its power indirectly, but all the more surely. On the one hand, in the form of the direct corruption of officials, of which America provides the classical example; on the other hand, in the form of an alliance between government and Stock Exchange, which become the easier to achieve the more the public debt increases and the more joint-stock companies concentrate in their hands not only transport but also production itself, using the Stock Exchange as their centre. The latest French republic as well as the United States is a striking example of this; and good old Switzerland has contributed its share in this field.”

    — Freddy Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, (1884)

  7. Anon

    After reading the whole thing, I propose an idea, one that’s a bit long-form and may take some years to accomplish, but if it gets achieved, then it could potentially provide a windfall of understanding among the populace. The idea being that we push the Teachout’s/founder’s definition of corruption as public power for private gain and ignore emphasize the quid pro quo definition falls under the umbrella of public power for private gain. In this way, people on the outside can then take a look at events under this more encompassing definition of corruption and plan accordingly. So for example, it could be explained like this:

    Corruption in the political spectrum is the use of public power for private gain. This manifests itself primarily through quid pro quo, but that is not the only way that corruption can manifest itself.

    Of course, seeing as how this was hastily thought of, I am aware of the possibility of there being some flaws with this, but I figure that it was worth spreading to the wind nonetheless.

  8. Carolinian

    Shorter you: everyone in Washington is corrupt–at least according to Teachout’s reading of the Founding Fathers.

    However the problem has been easily defined away by shifting moral responsibility from action to intention. “They meant well,” and therefore couldn’t possibly be corrupt, criminal, incompetent. Instead of murder think involuntary manslaughter.

    In truth we are living in the plea bargain society–run by lawyers.

    1. lambert strether

      Well, no. Different Clans/factions/dynasties ate corrupt in their own ways.

      And people like Sanders are very far down the corruption leaderboard; so far down as to be amateur players, not professionals.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          I wish I could take credit for an Anna Karenina reference, but I didn’t intend one. What did I accidentally do that was so good?

          Oh, wait. “In their own ways.” I actually did have that quote in mind, fleetingly. But I have never read Tolstoy, sadly.

      1. Carolinian

        Yes I’m indulging in a bit of hyperbole. My hero Nader was famous for his monkish lifestyle and named his organization Public Citizen, a nod to the FF. BTW just watching Sanders on the PBS News Hour. He took some shots at Hillary and did well.

        So let’s say ninety percent of Washington is on the pad….ballpark.

        At any rate thanks for the piece. Corruption is topic A imo.

  9. AQ

    In truth we are living in the plea bargain society–run by lawyers.

    So true and to take it a step further: Who can argue until they are blue in the face about what is and isn’t ‘moral,’ let alone what is and isn’t ‘ethical.’

    I know lawyers have been around for a very very long time; that said, I’m curious about whether or not we can see changes to different societies once the legal professionals become ‘professionally schooled?’

    Well, as far as that goes, I suspect that there might be a lot more gray morality and ethical choices with more education in general. Or maybe the ability to self-justify better.

    Interesting article, thanks Lambert.

  10. NOTaREALmerican

    The children call it corruption. The adults call it being adults.
    You can separate the adults from the children by how they deal with duplicity.

      1. Jerry

        No, not too short. You can always do follow-up stories on other examples. Thanks for concentrating on the big issue of corruption

  11. Jim

    I think it is important to remember that, as we gradually morph into a new political order, the emerging structure of power is also full of dependent relationships not necessarily built simply around corruption.

    For example, the network of power that appears to largely make the key decisions about national security policy, much of American foreign policy and some of American domestic policy tends to be centered around individuals who are extremely influential not necessarily because of their wealth, family connections or corruption but because of their reliability (not likely to embarrass their superiors) capacity for hard-work and ability and willingness to stay beneath the radar.

    These are the members of the various anonymous networks discussed by Janine Wedel in “Shadow Elite” and Michael J Glennon in “National Security and Double Government.”

    As greater and greater portions of national economic policy, defense, trade, and national security/foreign policy come under network control and influence such developments directly challenge the cherished assumption that American citizens can still steer their own government by simply electing new public officials.

    The key dependent relationship may now be between our publicly elected officials (the supplicants) and the more and more powerful and much less visible public and private bureaucratic networks.

    1. hunkerdown

      Good catch, that a class (as a group) can be related to other classes (each as their own group), even if not every participant in one class acknowledges that relationship with every other in the other. Now, if one of those classes is exploiting their class relationships for class or personal gain — something akin to Wedel’s “personalizing the bureaucracy” — we’re getting into what might be called systemic corruption.

  12. sleepy

    An insightful and accurate way to define and classify corruption. Very thoughtful.

  13. mitzimuffin

    I attended a League of Women Voter’s presentation of “Money, Power, and Corruption” at the local library today.
    It wad good, but not specific enough. They wanted the presentation to give the audience a sense of empowerment, and tried to keep things positive. That wasn’t exactly received well by the (mostly) seniors who attended. Seniors are pissed off royally, and are very concerned about leaving our children and grandchildren w/a world less than what we had. I think channeling our anger rather than appeasing it would have been a better approach.
    I really wish I had read this piece before I went to the meeting. Terrific work, Lambert! Thanks! (BTW, I sent it to the citizens who ran the presentation, and hope for a good response.)

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      “Seniors are pissed off royally, and are very concerned about leaving our children and grandchildren w/a world less than what we had.” I agree, and as with everything else, it’s connecting the pissed-off-ness to action of some sort…

  14. Jess

    Anytime I find myself thinking that I’m pretty smart, or pretty well-organized, I go read something by Lambert or Yves and am reminded of my true place.

    Thank God for NC.

    1. rfdawn

      The top problem with corruption is always the difficulty in knowing what is really going on. “The Day of the Owl” by Leonardo Sciascia is a nice fictional treatment. I also liked “Thieves of State”, by Sarah Chayes, for her frank admission that she spent two years in Afghanistan before realising she was being fooled. This sort of stuff can just defeat the ordinary citizen. We need people like Yves & Lambert who figure it all out and tell us. Let’s call them journalists!

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        That’s very much like the experience of being a foreigner in Thailand for me. Much more than half the time, I just have to accept that I have no idea of what’s going on around me, and not only due to the language barrier, but due to fundamental relations between people (people including me) that I do not understand.

        Unfortunately, at least when I read the news, I seem to be having this experience of being a foreigner in “my own country” as well. Like Nixon’s Attorney General John Mitchell said: “The country’s going so far to the right you’re not going to recognize it.” (I wonder who he’d been talking to?) I only hope I see the karmic wheel turn in my lifetime.

        1. Nathanael

          Everything I see in this country reminds me of the late 19th century run-up to World War One.

          You will see things change in your lifetime, and very fast. It may be extremely messy.

          The country is much, much more left-wing than Mitchell could possibly have imagined, by the way. The government is out of tune with the country. This is one of the reasons we’re in a late-19th-century situation.

  15. Skippy

    “While we agree that the situation is indeed dire, we want to highlight another dimension to the tragedy: the unacknowledged dominance of neoliberal ideas across the spectrum of acceptable climate debate. It is crucial that analyses of the politics of climate change look beyond the tactics of ‘the denialists’. We also believe that the vagueness accompanying discussions of neoliberalism contributes to the intellectual paralysis preventing the Left from articulating any kind of viable alternative.

    Neoliberalism is a coherent political movement embodied in the institutional history of the global network of think tanks: the American Enterprise Institute, the Cato Institute, the Institute of Economic Affairs, the Institute of Public Affairs (the key Australian node of the network) and their dedicated spin-off counter-science think tanks. All can be traced back to the Mont Pelerin Society, the central think tank of the neoliberal counter-revolution, founded in 1947 by Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman.

    One reason neoliberals have triumphed over their ideological rivals is because they have ventured beyond a single ‘fix’ for any given problem, instead deploying a broad spectrum of policies from the most expendable short-term expedients, to medium-term politics, to long-horizon utopian projects. While these may appear as distinct and contradictory policies, they are in fact integrated in such a way as to produce eventual capitulation to the free market.”

    “Neoclassical economics and ‘the environment’

    The reason economics is one source of our political paralysis is that it presumes, both at the level of formalism and at the level of ontology, that the market is identical to nature.

    ‘Political economy’ (think Smith, Ricardo, Mill and Marx) had always assumed that industrial society was riven by conflicts over land, labour and capital. Inequality, coercion and power were obstacles to the emergence of the neutral, mathematical science of society that the founders of neoclassical economics sought to develop in the 1870s. The general equilibrium model of an ideal, self-regulating society of self-interested individuals eliminated ‘land’ and ‘the political’ from the equation. The ‘scientific’ character of neoclassical economics remains tied to the assertion that market prices are the most basic fact of social existence, mechanically determined by natural scarcity constraining the ‘naturally’ infinite drive to accumulate wealth.

    The standard way of dealing with environmental degradation within the orthodox neoclassical framework has been to ask how a rational economic agent should respond to the wrecking of its environment by the normal operation of the market. But because the economy is always portrayed in economics as natural, posing the question in this manner leads to paradoxes. In particular, there can be no notion of existing markets as implacably hostile to the natural environment: how can nature be at war with itself?”


    Skippy…. seems we have a singular problem [neoliberalism cough… free market fundamentalism e.g. corporatism i.e. aggregate wealth is the best determinate in the allocation of goods and services] which presents a multifaceted faux facade.

    1. Jackrabbit

      Yes Skippy.
      Adding: market fundamentalism is not just an ideology. ‘Ideology’ implies a thought pattern that one can critique and debate publicly. That is not quite true in this case.

      1) The ruling class is in remarkable agreement about how the world should work. It is cult-like. Those who disagree get pejorative labels. The ones that are entranced (“true believers”) excuse their exceptional! lifestyle with the incredibly naive and self-serving “best of all worlds” theory in much the same way as everyone used to believe in efficient markets theory.

      It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary lifestyle depends upon his not understanding it . . . – with apologies to Upton Sinclair

      2) This cult-ish ‘ideology’ is backed by the monied interests that benefit by convincing/conditioning the public to go along. They have bought themselves a big bullhorn and the “experts” that bloviate through it. They are not interested in debate, except to the extent that it legitimizes the crony capitalist tyranny that they enjoy.

      People should be asking questions like these:

      Are markets ‘fair’ because they have no agency?
      Bull! They empower those who have market power (aka ‘pricing power’). So ‘market fundamentalism’ simply empowers the wealthy as a group. Such a system does represent the ‘best of all worlds’ – for the wealthy who enjoy market power – but such lopsided systems (heads I win, tails you lose) have historically ended in tears (for poor and wealthy alike).

      Do equal access (to markets) = equal opportunity?

      Greece (and the 2008 GFC) is a case in point. No questioning in the media about moral or systemic issues. Should the Banks that made the loans take losses? Should the Bank executives be censured? Well no, they’ve already been bailed out by the governments who now act as their outsourced collection agency. The media thus conveniently ignores the corruption that has caused untold death and suffering. If the Greeks prevail, only THEN might some people complain about the bank bailouts.

      Global warming is another. There’s more concern that some beach houses may be flooded than that millions may die.

      There are other examples as well, of course.

      H O P

      1. Skippy

        Agree – Historical evidence points to a political agenda, which is forwarded by faux ideological concoctions used to obfuscate its core agenda.

  16. Jackrabbit

    Spot on Lambert. The deviousness is . . . exceptional! But it’s not unique. It’s Tammany on the Potomac (with some modern twists like SuperPACs).

    It’s hard not to admire the skill behind Tweed’s system … The Tweed ring at its height was an engineering marvel, strong and solid, strategically deployed to control key power points: the courts, the legislature, the treasury and the ballot box. Its frauds had a grandeur of scale and an elegance of structure: money-laundering, profit sharing and organization.

    – “Boss” Tweed biographer Kenneth D. Ackerman


    It’s long past time that corruption was recognized as a feature not a bug. While most spoils go to the party in power, the duopoly ensures that both parties can extract protection money benefit and endure. And the resulting circle-jerk grinds on everyone else. Propaganda and diffuse responsibility that allows for pointing fingers, passing the buck, and claims of innocence keep the populace confused (for a time) and was also (not surprisingly as it is so effective) a feature of Tammany as depicted in this cartoon from the 1870’s (Who stole the people’s money?).

    H O P

    1. Nathanael

      Which gets us back to my analysis of the fall of Tammany Hall.

      Nobody, or very few people, cared about the corruption.

      People started to get mad at the *ineffectiveness*. It was the Tweed Courthouse which brought down the Tammany Hall system; it was a decade overdue, 10 times over budget, and most damningly, *it wasn’t finished*.

      Nobody cares about corruption when the important stuff is getting done. When, on the other hand, the economy is collapsing, law and order are falling apart (so that nobody is even willing to call the police when they’re burglarized, because the police are worse than the burglars), when every war the country gets into is lost… then people start getting mad about the corruption. But what they’re really mad about is that the corruption is preventing the important work from getting done.

      Nobody cared about the rampant and obvious corruption of Talleyrand as long as he got the job done. When it started interfering with the job in the XYZ affair, it became an issue.

  17. Patricia

    Excellent post, Lambert. Thanks very much!

    The beginning of a project, should you decide to take it on, over time.

  18. Rob Levine

    I’d like to see the same analysis of the Clintons but framed as a Flexian hive, or flex-net. They have all the traits – moving in and out of all kinds of public and private institutions, with loyalty only to each other, causing harm to those institutions, but paying no price for that. It’s not the “revolving door,” but as Wedel puts it, the “evolving door,” creating a griftogenic habitat for personal and group enrichment.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Adding, I’m aware of the terrific Flexnet approach — “ginormous hairball” is a sort of placeholder phrase for it — but there’s only so much time for a given post. I’ll try to keep it in mind for future post.

  19. steelhead23

    Bless you Lambert. This is an excellent post – well thought out and organized.

    I believe your argument supports a position I have long held – the widely held belief that it is best to vote for the lesser of two evils leads us to accept, if not support, evil. I suspect that many who frequent these pages would choose to vote for Clinton as opposed to say Jeb Bush. I implore you not to. I implore you all to vote for the person you believe best suited to the office – even if that person is unlikely to gain a single electoral college vote. Why would I say this? Don’t I recall that Bush stole the election from Gore and took us to war? Well, yes, and yes. But, if we wish to see better choices – to see the Democratic Party return to its populist roots – we would be voting against our own interest were we to vote for Hillary.

    Pardon me for hijacking your thread about ethics to talk about political strategy Lambert, but I think that too often we tsk tsk without setting out a path to redemption.

  20. Nathanael

    So, forget the term “corruption”, and analyze these the way you’d analyze politicians in the feudal period of the Middle Ages.

    Walker is a lackey. We can rightly ignore him. We look at the Koch brothers as the actual actors.

    Bush was an untrustworthy king, prone to deceit and betrayal. The “outsourcing” creates a key point of unreliability, much like working with mercenaries does. This is occasionally effective, but usually makes a hell of a lot of enemies and ends with assassination.

    Clinton is doing it the way you’re supposed to do it in feudalism. The way which causes the peasants who owe loyalty to you to stick up for you when you need an army.

    Oh, and yes, Jeb & company did steal the election for Bush, by ending the vote counting. You do remember that Gore got more votes than Bush, period? It was reported in the newspapers and everything.

  21. Dirk77

    Thoughtful piece. I have not finished reading Teachout’s book, but so far it is fascinating. All that history. And then if if you want to dig deeper you have the references. Plus one term you will learn is Yazoo.

  22. JM Hatch

    “The final stages of capitalism, Marx wrote, would be marked by developments that are intimately familiar to most of us. Unable to expand and generate profits at past levels, the capitalist system would begin to consume the structures that sustained it. It would prey upon, in the name of austerity, the working class and the poor, driving them ever deeper into debt and poverty and diminishing the capacity of the state to serve the needs of ordinary citizens. It would, as it has, increasingly relocate jobs, including both manufacturing and professional positions, to countries with cheap pools of laborers. Industries would mechanize their workplaces. This would trigger an economic assault on not only the working class but the middle class—the bulwark of a capitalist system—that would be disguised by the imposition of massive personal debt as incomes declined or remained stagnant. Politics would in the late stages of capitalism become subordinate to economics, leading to political parties hollowed out of any real political content and abjectly subservient to the dictates and money of global capitalism.”

Comments are closed.