Welcome To Politics, Chicago Style

minute-man-2-lithoAfter reading all seventy-six pages of the Blagojevich indictment, I am shocked—shocked that anyone would be shocked that politicians engage in politics.  Welcome to politics, Illinois and Chicago style.

What has all the politicos so upset is the crude way in which Blago went about making his deals.  The most outrageous accusation, the selling of a Senate seat was,  for some reason, cut short by Fitzgerald before any crime was committed, thus practically insuring that no prosecution on that charge will be successful.

As for the rest of it, that’s politics as it is currently carried on in America, particularly in Illinois.  If you are shocked by this, you haven’t been paying attention.  Why do you think most large companies and other organizations maintain lobbyists in Capitals all over America, including Washington?  How do you think most government appointments are made?  How do you think most Ambassadors secure their appointments?  M-O-N-E-Y, otherwise known in polite political circles as campaign contributions.

The problem with Blago is that he insisted on putting the cart before the horse by insisting on spelling out the payoff before the deal was made, and in such uncouth language.  Usually the contributions are made first, then comes the favors.  Most politicians who play the game understand the rules, as do the other players.  The number one rule is that you never outwardly express the terms of the deal, especially in public or on the phone.

Normally when a large contribution is made, there is an unspoken understanding that the recipient of that contribution will look favorably on your requests once in office.  Since there is no guarantee the candidate you contribute to will win, most savvy players contribute to both sides.  Candidates, on the other hand, know that the person writing the multi-thousands dollars checks understand that they can expect something from the candidate in return, if elected.

The understanding between the candidate and the contributors form a kind of psychological contract.  That’s why many on the left are so angry at soon-to-be (Dec. 15th) President-Elect Barack Obama.  After kicking in over $700 millions into his campaign coffers, there are signs he might renege on some of his promises, therefore they feel cheated.

There are a number of ways to ingratiate oneself to a politician.  There is the vote.  This entitles you to a polite letter from a member of his or her staff in response to your complaint or request.  You can also volunteer for his campaign.  This may get you a low-level job with the government after election and possibly a visit to his office when you are in town.  It may also entitle you to consideration for a favor or two from his or her local office staff.

The most effective way, of course, is to write a hefty check to his campaign.  Do it at a fund-raiser and you also get to meet others in the inner-circle.  Depending on the size of your check and the nature of your request, you may get a plumb appointment, a contract for your business, favorable tax considerations for your projects or a least a nice little “gift” tucked into a bill, otherwise known as a “pork-barrel” amendment.

All in all, the Blagojevich indictment presents a disturbing but somewhat accurate picture of the underbelly of politics in Illinois, and to an extent, of politics in general.  Politics is an ugly business.  Corruption is a natural bi-product of politics, especially of liberal and socialist politics.  It can only continue however, with the acquiescence of the voting public.

The primary motivation for those engaging in politics is power and, as we know, power corrupts.  If we wish to eliminate corruption from our politics there are some thing we can do.  The founders understood the corrupting power of politics.  That’s why they insisted on limiting the terms elected officials were expected to serve.  Many in that era wanted the President and Senators to serve for life as they did in the English monarchy.

Others, including Jefferson wanted to limit the President to one term of seven years.  The limits finally decided on were two years for Representatives, six for Senators and four for President.  The number of terms each could serve was left up to the voters.  After Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected to four terms, a Constitutional Amendment (No. 22) was passed limiting the President to two terms.  Efforts to limit Senators and Representatives have all been in vain.

One of the most effective ways of eliminating or reducing corruption in politics is to simply STOP VOTING FOR THE SAME CLOWNS IN ELECTION AFTER ELECTION.  No matter how honest, civic minded and patriotic when elected, very few can resist the temptations of power when they are exposed to it throughout the major portion of their lifetime.

This is not an indictment of all politicians.  At the same time, corruption is too widespread to consider the Blagojevich episode to be an isolated case.  Illinois is one of the most corrupt states in the union, most of the corruption starts from the Chicago and Cook County political machines and spreads outward from there.

Every year the cost of office increases in price.  Obama spent almost a billion dollars for his office, Blago was asking a million for Obama’s old Senate seat.  Wealthy candidates often spend millions of their own money to secure a high office.  In the end, it usually turns out to be a good investment, if successful.  Bill Clinton, for example, never earned more than $35,000 per year until he was elected President.  After serving for only eight years, he now gets millions for a single speech.

Those who insist on voting for the same person election after election have no reason to complain about corruption.  For the rest of us, we should work for term limits on all elected offices.  If a candidate does not reach his or her “level of incompetence” (The Peter Principle) in one or two terms they can move up to successively higher levels until they do.  Once reaching their level, they should never be allowed to remain in office for longer than it takes to vote them out.

Another way of limiting corruption is to break the power political parties have over our government.  The political parties as they are now structured are having the same effect on our government the unions have had on Detroit automakers.  The only way to break the unhealthy power of political parties is to return to the non-partisan form of government envisioned by the founders and outlined in the Constitution.


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