Divided America Agrees on This -- Govt. Corruption Is Rampant
As more details have emerged over the past week regarding President Trump’s conversation with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, the White House has confirmed that Trump asked the leader of a foreign country to investigate the man who, at the time, was considered the greatest obstacle to his reelection.
The president’s willingness to release a rough transcript of the call without much of a fight appears to reinforce his belief that he did nothing wrong. He seems to be saying, “I had to endure a two-year investigation; why did Joe Biden get off so easily.” Given his approach to governance, this miscalculation is understandable. His behavior, however, is deeply troubling.
Coupled with the obstruction of justice strongly implied – but not directly alleged – in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, Trump’s admitted behavior is arguably worse than the misdeeds that brought down Richard Nixon. They are clearly worthy of an impeachment investigation.
So why are the American people equally split on the idea of starting such an inquiry? One key reason is the level of polarization among the U.S. electorate. A large percentage of Americans now define themselves in opposition to one of the major political parties. Clearly, if the Democrats want it, it must be wrong – whatever “it” happens to be. Conversely, many Americans have the same reaction to anything that helps the Republicans.
An even more powerful, but related, force may be lurking underneath – particularly for the growing plurality of Americans who don’t identify with either political party. In polling completed in December of last year by Caddell & Associates, 85% of Americans believe “the country is run by an alliance of incumbent politicians, media pundits, lobbyists and other powerful money interest groups for their own gain at the expense of the American people.” To many Americans, government corruption has become the rule rather than the exception.
Yes, a president withholding $391 million in aid to a foreign country immediately before asking that nation’s newly elected president to investigate his political opponent appears corrupt on its face. But so does the son of the vice president of the United States, with no relevant skills or expertise and a track record of questionable behavior, being rewarded with a $50,000-a-month gig on the board of a foreign company being investigated for corruption. Does anyone really believe that Hunter Biden would have gotten that opportunity if his father wasn’t the vice president and leading Washington’s efforts to root out corruption in that same country?
Similarly, the Clinton Foundation accepted donations from an array of well-heeled foreign entities while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state and the foundation was employing many of the individuals who made up her presidential campaign-in-waiting. Does anyone believe foreign interests would be steering millions of dollars to an American nonprofit if not to curry favor with Secretary Clinton?
The list of self-enriching scandals among Washington insiders is long and it isn’t always relegated to “legal” bribery. How about former Republican Congressman and Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price buying more than $300,000 of health-care- related stocks while working on measures that would increase their share price?
As it relates to the Bidens, although there no evidence the vice president changed his behavior and acted corruptly, the truth is that the media hasn’t spent much time looking for it. Partly, this is because of the mutual hostility between Trump and the press. The larger problem is that mainstream media sees nothing wrong or unusual about the son of a prominent U.S. official receiving huge financial compensation in an industry he knew nothing about in a country where he can’t even speak the language. Meanwhile, when the headlines blare “No evidence of wrongdoing,” the fallacy is apparent on its face to millions of Americans.
When the American people read “No evidence of wrongdoing,” what they conclude is that our system of crony capitalism and normalized corruption is working as usual, to enrich insiders at the expense of everyone else. It’s why, in the Caddell poll, government ethics and corruption were the highest-scoring concern of the American people and two-thirds of respondents said if there were a place on the ballot where they could vote to defeat and replace every single member of Congress, including their own representative, they would.
The bottom line is that it would be far easier to impeach a president for corrupt behavior if the system itself weren’t so fundamentally corrupt.