Something must be done to cleanse the American political system and instill some degree of integrity in the nation’s democratic institutions.
As fraudsters and hustlers from Bernard Madoff to Rod Blagojevich fall like dominoes, in the footsteps of Bernie Ebbers, Kenneth Lay and Dan Rostenkowski, one can say that confidence in the good old American way is beginning to wane. While apathy towards politics has been a mainstay of the American consciousness for decades, the overall sense of despair in the air is probably at record highs.
Those who believed in the American political system framed this a fall of hope, but unfortunately winter arrived early and relentlessly. In Chicago, multiple snow and ice storms coupled with vicious winds brought the mid-western metropolis its most unbearable December in recent memory. When winter officially began on Sunday, wind chills dipped as low as –30 F: that brand of cold that is determined to slice through all defenses you throw at it. Meanwhile, the Blago circus came to town: the over-charismatic executive, teetering through the worst approval rating in Illinois gubernatorial history, failed to heed warnings of when enough was enough.
Reports indicate that he thought $1.5 million was a just price for Obama’s senate seat: a relative bargain in these days of neo-liberal hegemony. One could hardly get elected to the U.S. House with that kind of cash. In fact, the seat that used to be Blago’s, currently occupied by incoming Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, could very well cost around $1.5 million for the Chicago machinist most intent on calling it theirs. Emanuel himself spent $1.88 million getting re-elected this last time around, despite the lack of any viable opposition in either round.
In the coming special election, still yet to be officially announced because Emanuel hasn’t resigned, the total number of announced candidates is 18 and climbing. Every interested state rep, senator and alderman in the Chicago area has begun flexing their muscle, organizing their political apparatus, and using corporate press clout to promote their candidacies. The talk around town is not where the candidates stand on the issues, or where they lie along the political spectrum, but rather who’s got the goods to win the race.
And last I checked it isn’t only in Chicago where political livelihood is entirely dependent on support from corporate crooks. Despite all of the euphoria of early November, Obama is a prime representation of the fact that one can never win the White House by challenging the reprehensible actions of the nation’s largest banks, investors and lenders. Instead you have to allow them to donate generously to your campaign and then to dictate your economic policies.
While Obama was giving his spiel about hope and change repeatedly for two years, he was concurrently amassing an unprecedented war chest, thrust along by at least $2 million from entities directly involved in the sub-prime swindle: Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, UBS and Lehman Brothers. Despite Obama framing his candidacy as the one closer to the interests of the people, his rake from all of the above was considerably greater than McCain’s.
Corporate America realized early that Obama was the likely victor and that they had to move to ensure that he was thoroughly corrupted, and wouldn’t use the economic malaise as an excuse to begin regulating the financial sector. In following Obama’s purse strings, it is clear that he will likely do nothing to protect Americans from crony Capitalism. Citibank, currently under investigation for its involvement in derivative fraud and managing to make $1.2 trillion disappear from its balance sheets, was one of Obama’s biggest donors: with nearly $400,000 being given from its employees to the Senator in the first half of 2008 alone.
At just the time when the country needs to forcibly remove these crooked corporations from the political arena, they are as deeply ingrained as ever. Just when the congress must absolutely restore monetary sanity by re-instituting the Glass-Steagall act and reversing decades of rampant deregulation and privatization, the president will be doing the bidding of the same investment banks that gave us the housing bubble. And just as the American public begins to digest the enormity of said bubble, “our president” will assuredly be another loyal servant of Wall Street.
The foundations will only tremble when Americans pledge to support no candidate who accepts donations of any kind from corporations. When we can be sure that our public servants are clean of the crud of monied interests, we can then begin to have a grand discourse about hope and change.
The place to begin is right in Blago’s backyard, where the governor’s godchildren are busily positioning themselves to be the chosen successor to the seat once held by the man himself. This post won’t be sold, surely enough, but it probably will be bought. Given the district’s history of electing illicit political criminals, there’s no reason to think that the hounds won’t be let loose on the candidates.
Will any of them pledge to refuse corporate donations this time around? Will they rise above the easy route of accepting large sums of money from those interests intent on preying on the poor, de-unionizing workers, and instituting a perpetual culture of indebtedness?
I hereby demand it of them. I demand that each of the candidates sign onto this pledge to refuse all corporate donations. I ask that they run on the issues, and win by talking to constituents about their concerns, desires and wishes. In so doing, I dream that the victor will be “our congressperson” and not another soul-less pawn of big business.
I have thrown my hat into the ring of candidates because I would like to see my dream of a clean political system become reality. I have grown frustrated over years of dwindling social movements and increased state coercion of civil society. The dictatorship of corporate America, which is currently in shambles, must be swept away and replaced by a respectful liberal democracy. The first step is getting the fraudsters and hustlers out of politics, and replacing them with public servants who pledge to represent the interest of the working majority.
Will any of the other candidates in this special election rise to the occasion and work with me towards creating a more just nation?
For the health of our democracy, it is what must be done.