Of all the illusions in the fantasy world of American politics — and there are too many to count — none is more pervasive and successful than the fantasy that political parties, candidates or elected officials give a damn about “average Americans.”
In nearly 50 years of either covering politics as a reporter or working inside the system as a political operative I never — I say again never — encountered a candidate, elected official or operative who cared about the needs of ordinary Americans.
Politics is geared to appeal to the masses but those who practice the game have a universal disdain for those of ordinary means, normal needs and modest lifestyles.
The system is geared to serve those with money, power and influence and then to use those constituencies to control the masses through propaganda, media manipulation and outright lies.
It’s been that way since before George Washington — in his farewell Presidential addresss — warned that allowing politics to become pervasive in government would eventually destroy the Republic he sacrificed so much to help build.
Democrats call Republicans the party of the rich while courting megamillions from labor union bosses, Hollywood fatcats and Wall Street. Republicans try to exploit populist themes while letting backroom billionaires call the shots. Democrats have George Soros, Republicans have the Koch brothers.
Sadly, I didn’t just observe these illusions as a journalist, I exploited them as a political operative. As a campaign manager, I fashioned messages with a mass-market appeal knowing full well that those promises would never be kept. I played on base fears of the uninformed to hurt our opponents.
During a five-year stint as Vice President of Political Programs for the giant National Association of Realtors, I used what was then Washington’s largest political action committee (PAC) to support candidates I knew were dishonest or crooked simply because they were “right” on our issues. I used millions of dollars of PAC money to destroy good candidates because they threatened the corrupt system we supported with even more millions in Washington.
Politics is a lucrative, seductive business, one that depends on an absence of morality to thrive. I drowned my conscience in single malt scotch and accepted the base argument that we were, somehow, working for the “common good.”
The common good took a leave of absence from American government long ago and never came back. Morality has no role in a system where money buys influence, sex is a persuasive tool and corruption is a way of life.
From where we stand here at Capitol Hill Blue, no current candidate for the House or Senate or for President will change the system. We see no option that will make things better. We see scenarios that can make it far worse — like single party domination.
What we can do is look for ways to implement real change that might — at the very least — start reasoned discussion on the problems this country faces.
Can we succeed? I don’t know.
Can we try? Yes. We not only can…we must.
More to come.