Today, the America I see is more corrupt than I have ever seen in my entire life. I am ashamed of this country, angry, because our current political order mocks the phrase “we the people”.
Today I’m starting a series on money and politics with my friends at the Huffington Post. The first segment is on at 4pm, and we’re going to go into the history of how our government has been blocked from its people by a wall of money. But first, I think it’s worth pointing out that politicians have been talking, and pandering, on this topic for decades.
Let’s start with this attack ad from 2004, by George W. Bush attacking John Kerry on his dependence on special interest money. Amazing, both because it’s true that Kerry was awash in corrupt cash, and because it’s so brazenly hypocritical for Bush to have made that accusation.
But this problem goes back a long time. Here’s Jimmy Carter, on our broken system.
“I have been accused of being an outsider,” he says. “I plead guilty. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Americans are also outsiders. We are not going to get changes by simply shifting around the same groups of insiders, the same tired old rhetoric, the same unkept promises and the same divisive appeals to one party, one faction, one section of the country, one race or religion or one interest group. The insiders have had their chances and they have not delivered. Their time has run out.”
Here’s Ronald Reagan in his first inaugural:
We hear much of special interest groups. Well, our concern must be for a special interest group that has been too long neglected. It knows no sectional boundaries or ethnic and racial divisions, and it crosses political party lines. It is made up of men and women who raise our food, patrol our streets, man our mines and factories, teach our children, keep our homes, and heal us when we’re sick–professionals, industrialists, shopkeepers, clerks, tabbies, and truck drivers. They are, in short, “We the people,” this breed called Americans.
And Bill Clinton:
Americans deserve better, and in this city today, there are people who want to do better. And so I say to all of us here, let us resolve to reform our politics, so that power and privilege no longer shout down the voice of the people.
In 2008, here’s chief campaign strategist on Hillary Clinton:
“She has represented change all her life,” says Mark Penn, her chief strategist , “and she’s been fighting the special interests all her life.”
And here’s Barack Obama while running for President:
“Washington is severely broken. And I think the system is rigged, and I think it’s rigged against the American people and it’s rigged by powerful interests and their lobbyists in Washington.”
Every politician out there is going to rail against special interests, except, ironically, the ones who are honest about working in a corrupt system. It’s up to us, to we the people, to claim this government as ours. It’s not going to happen because we placed our trust in a class of people who repeatedly betray us. It’s going to happen because of people who put their bodies on the line, like those at the #TakeWallStreet protests. Like them or not, they have decided that enough is enough. And I think I’ve decided the same.