The real culprit is ‘we the people’

Democracy is not supposed to be a spectator sport. If people don’t know what their elected officials are doing, those leaders will run away with the store. The less the citizens know, the more that those representing them will do to perpetuate their own power. I’m not talking about bribery or stealing, although that certainly happens too — I’m talking about the urge for those in power to load the game so that they can continue to stay in power. The more they do that, the more the other bad stuff happens. It’s human nature. Can you be sure that if you were in the game you wouldn’t be tempted to do the same thing?

The people of New York state just don’t seem to care that much about what is going on in Albany. While the state’s population is largely in New York City where the major media are, the state capital was placed in Albany, ostensibly to keep the stench of corrupt urban politics from infecting the people. It turns out that by putting the government in Albany, the politicians were hiding their nefarious doings from their constituents. You know, out of sight, out of mind. The upshot is that most people know very little about what their leaders are up to.

We have allowed the people running things to fix the game. To this day, for instance, we allow the leaders of the majority parties to draw their own districts. They create political boundaries where only they can win. Even after that process was supposedly “reformed,” the so-called reform turns out to be a sham. The problem is that everyone is in on the game, even when they say that they are not. In the case of redistricting, for example, the governor says that he is in favor of reform but makes a deal to perpetuate the system and then further fools the people by giving them a so-called constitutional amendment that will keep things going the good old corrupt way.

Redistricting is only the tip of the iceberg. We allow people seeking influence to buy power the same way they would buy bacon at the grocery store. They walk up, pay the cashier and get what they want. Why do you think a governor who says he is for campaign reform would be able to raise thirty five million dollars to run for office? Does anyone think that all that money is given to provide for clean government? If you believe that, it’s time to get back on the turnip truck. Lobbying is big business. When politicians retire they often become lobbyists. They know how to work the levers of power. They help fund campaigns, once again paying the clerk for the tomatoes.

The leaders have so much power that they can create the agenda. It looks like one thing but upon a closer look, the stink of rotten fish is unmistakable. The present governor loves the idea that the Republicans are kept in place despite their minority status in New York so that the Democrats don’t pass legislation that will threaten the entrenched players. Even if the Democrats take the Senate, mark my words, the governor will find a way to keep the status quo.

So why don’t we watch the game of Three-Card Monte as it continues? I suppose a good deal of the blame revolves around the politicians who have painstakingly corrupted the game. But the real culprit is “We the People” who just can’t be bothered. We think the corruption is within tolerable limits until some greedy dope does something that is beyond the pale and ends up in jail. The real problem is with a loaded, corrupt system and with those who just can’t be bothered enough to care.

Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 9/9/14

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