Political cynicism, corruption and voter apathy

I have wondered, on occasion, whether the average voter would be outraged if there was real transparency in the political process and they were made aware of all of the under-the-table dealings, the lack of engagement by their elected officials to say nothing of the outright corruption that lies just under the surface.

This thought was renewed the other day when I read this piece.

Krauthammer’s Take [NRO Staff]

From last night’s panel on “Special Report.” On Caroline Kennedy:

It’s not a question of experience. You often get inexperienced candidates who come out of nowhere. You get rich businessmen and the occasional actor or sports star.

It’s a question of entitlement. The only thing she has that makes her somebody to even be considered for this office is pedigree. I mean, I hate to be a good government scold, but I would think that one of the reasons for the American experiment is to abolish the idea of government by pedigree.

Now, of course, we have in history— the Adams and the Harrisons, the Rockefellers, the Kennedys and the Bushes. But it seems a bit of an epidemic these days.

First of all, you have a senate stacked with plutocrats as a result of our campaign finance laws, which give an enormous advantage to anyone who is a rich. They run, and the opponent has to grubbily raise money, and you end up with a sizable number of very rich people coming out of nowhere in the Senate.

And what you also have is what we saw… where John Kennedy had his college roommate, Ben Smith II, sit in his seat until two years later until Teddy was old enough and had reached the age of 30 when he inherited it.

And Biden has done exactly that in Delaware. He has gotten a family retainer appointed now to the Biden seat who will keep it warm and will not run again when in two years the Biden son, who is now in Iraq, will return and take that seat.

Look, Caroline Kennedy is a worthy socialite. But if she wants it, she should run and not accept an appointment. It is OK to run on pedigree, but do it in an election and not in an appointment.

Now this is obviously not illegal and apparently not uncommon, but I don’t think that it is how the framers of the U.S. constitution really planned for the system to work.

Of a more serious nature,the US has Governor Blagojevich allegedly using his position to try and  sell President-elect Obama’s Senate seat for favours or the highest bidder, or at worst appoint himself to the position. I don’t pretend to know what the legal ramifications of this are – although he is being investigated with talk of an indictment – but it is certainly an unbelievably serious ethical and moral lapse.

This on top of scandals in the federal system involving Senator Ted Stevens, Scooter Libby, Rick Renzi, Tom DeLay and a multitude of others, to say nothing of those at the State level.

It is really a wonder that anyone has enough faith in the system to actually vote and it is no wonder that there was this huge love fest for Barack Obama, seen by many US voters as someone who would deliver a new, open and honest type of politics to the country. All of which will remain to be seen. It would require major reforms in the political system which would probably find considerable resistance.

It’s not that Canada doesn’t have its own scandals, although they seem pretty boring by comparison; even a list of our possible top ten seems rather tame.  We can’t even determine whether the ongoing affair with former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and lobbyist Karlheinz Schreiber, who over a 19 month period back in 1993 and 1994 paid Mulroney $300,000 for “international representation“, is truly a scandal or just a transaction that simply stinks of greed and stupidity.

But then who knows what else really lurks below the surface in Canadian politics. However, it does say something about our country when #3 on the Canadian scandal list is David Emerson, newly elected as a Liberal MP crossing the floor to the Conservative side of the house for a cabinet post.

Whoa! Now there’s a scandal of epic proportions.

Unfortunately our media rarely has the good fortune to sink their teeth into all-out scandals like New York Governor Elliot Spitzer‘s involvement with a high price prostitution ring or on a grander scale, President Clinton’s liaison with Monica Lewinsky.

I doubt if it is because our politicians are purer of mind and basically more ethical than those south of our border. It probably has more to do with the level of temptation; more money and a stronger whiff of power.

Whatever. All we can really hope for when we cast our vote is that our candidate has not only intelligence but a strong sense of ethics as well. That is not always apparent when the time comes to mark our ballot.


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