What we have in the US is less an establishment than a kleptocracy in which each individual in an "establishment" position is ripping off the public. The revolving door from the Obama administration is absolutely striking in its corruption. Chris Dodd level striking. Erskine Bowles level striking. Keith Alexander level striking. David Petraeus striking. Biden Junior striking.Really?
Dodd wasn't even in the administration; he got his revolving door cred for 30 years in the Senate, during most of which Obama wasn't president as you probably know, and for moving his entire family to Iowa while he was being paid to be a senator for Connecticut, in the belief that that peculiar gesture would help him beat Obama in the 2008 primaries.
Nor was Bowles, except for that 11-month failed stint as an Obama commission co-chair (which no doubt should have made him unemployable but instead got him a gig on the Facebook board, alongside the ones he already held at North Carolina Mutual Life, Norfolk Southern Corporation, and Morgan Stanley); he earned his revolving-door career as Clinton chief of staff from 1996 to 1998.
Generals Keith Alexander and David Petraeus undoubtedly were in Obama's administration as well as Bush's before, but in plunging from the service into the big money they are following a very longstanding tradition (Wikipedia traces the modern form to the 1880s). Only the case of young Hunter Biden, which I discussed in May, seems truly egregious, and much less now than it did last month when we thought we might really be going to war to protect young Hunter's financial interest in a Ukrainian natural gas firm. Now we're all panicked about going to war in Iraq instead, and I'm hoping that ends up being a mirage too.
I often feel as if Obama's election removed some kind of protective cushion of cynicism from the body politic so that we are now continually wandering around in a state of shock from one incident or another that would have caused our parents and grandparents mild amusement. General Petraeus gets bounced out of the CIA and takes a job he's not qualified for? Mercy, the world must be coming to an end!
The shame of it is that the point BooMan wanted to make—
—is really getting lost in all this hyperventilation.The present day anti-Establishment mood of the Conservative Movement doesn't follow this pattern. They are running for offices that they object to in the first place. "If elected, I promise to do absolutely nothing since the Constitution says that Congress can't pass any laws whatsoever."
These people don't want to become the Establishment; they want the Establishment to go away. The left is often guilty of a similar "permanent outsider" mentality, where power is there to be scolded and critiqued but never gained.
But politics is about power, and if you aren't seeking it, then you're just a noisy observer.
I had a dear old friend, now gone to dust, I'm sad to say, who was both a Communist (well, a member of the Young Communist League, he was too undisciplined to ever make it to party membership proper) and a serious Democrat—he pushed me into doing door-to-door work for a mildly insurgent mayoral candidate in Buffalo, New York, lo these many years ago (the candidate lost, of course)—because he felt, while we were waiting for the revolution, it would be a good idea for people to have jobs, and things like that. Why not?
He was even an admirer of the wicked mayor Richard J. Daley of Chicago; a crook, no doubt, but he took care of the folks in the wards. You can do that, in politics, for the reasons we all understand: that government is, after all, a way of mobilizing people for collective action on a scale churches and bowling leagues cannot contemplate. But there's probably going to be some unseemly goings-on, because power really does corrupt, and compromise is always necessary at least until the revolution comes.
(I also think the corruption of the Obama administration will turn out to be historically far less than that of the previous administration: I did a little study a while back, of one tiny aspect, ambassadorial nominations.)
The people you need to compromise with are not conservatives as such, so much as they are the people with the money, who may call themselves conservative at a given moment or may not, but who always want more of that cash. You just have to do it! That's how it works! Better to be Danton, with a lot of slimy connections and deals on the side, knowing you've done something to make people's lives better, than Robespierre with all that ideological purity and in the end nothing else.
And there are two kinds of corruption at issue: the institutional kind, as when Republicans get ALEC to write it into law, like this ghastly Michigan idea for classifying the burning of plastic waste and petroleum coke as renewable energy, with the attendant tax break; and the incidental kind, as allowing Chris Dodd to take his Rolodex to Hollywood and cash in on it, for a lot more money than you or I will ever see in our lifetimes, but virtually nothing compared to what it would take to convert the grid to real renewables. If you could deal with the institutional corruption and the price was putting up with some unplanned incidental corruption, wouldn't you? FDR would, that's for sure.
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