Politics is a dirty business. I think most Americans know that, but I think the revelations of recordings and other facts from the arrest and impeachment of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has allowed many to see just how dirty things can get. Now, had Gov. Blagojevich’s impeachment happened at a time other than in a presidential election season, and had he not been accused of trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat of the incoming president, then this story would have been front page for only a day or two. But, because of Gov. Blagojevich’s flamboyant (and some would say disturbing) personality, the story has been front and center for a while.
I’ve been talking to lots of people lately, and of course listening to and reading lots of news and commentary. The people I have been speaking with are starting to experience what I would call feigning fatigue. What we are tired of are political leaders who are deceptive, ego-centric, narcissistic, and generally nefarious. Politics, and that means politics at all levels, has gotten so polluted with the self-serving interests of those in power that it is a wonder that anything at gets done for the people for whom politicians are supposed to represent. I think is why people elected Barack Obama, as he brought a message of change. He alone cannot change the political culture of a nation that has been shaped over decades and decades, but he can certainly set the tone.
I think voters are ready to expel elected leaders that don’t do their jobs, and I think this is a good thing. I think politicians are picking up on this fatigue, too. Take for example the new intolerant nature of folks even within the political party of the politician in question. In Gov. Blagojevich’s case, Democrats were nearly unanimous in the calls for him to step down. A Democrat-controlled Illinois Senate voted to remove him from office. In my home state, another of these kinds of politicians, or should I say former politicians is Marc Dann. Elected to the office of Ohio Attorney General in statewide Democratic landslide in 2006, Dann at first seemed to be an upstanding person who would bring integrity to the office. Then came revelations of his affair with a female member of his staff, favoritism within the office which pushed out all sense of rational thinking–even leading some high-ranking officials to drink while driving state vehicles, sexual harassment, and more recent news that Mr. Dann mis-spent campaign and state money for his own personal gain.
What is the cost of democracy, and what are we willing to pay? For folks who are elected to terms of more than two years, perhaps the cost is that voters have a right to recall leaders that aren’t doing their jobs, much as they did in 2003 in California with former Gov. Gray Davis. We certainly have mechanisms in place in our democracy where corrupt officials can be removed, but are those enough? What do you think?
Image © 2008 - Mike Licht - Flickr