The news organizations, the comedians and the rest of the people who get in front of cameras and talk about current events are having a field day with Rod Blagojevich's troubles, and thank God for that. This is a scandal about how government works, or fails to work when a public official betrays the oath of office.
Honestly, though, I don't think people would care as much if it wasn't for all the bleeps and expletives in the transcripts. It's more fun if it is sounds like it's written by David Mamet.
Think about the scandals of the past few years. Which ones had real traction? Larry Craig, Mark Foley, Elliot Spitzer. Sex, sex and more sex. Nothing to do with the job.
Monica Goodling and loyalty oaths to Bush to get hired as U.S. attorneys? Not important.
The White House refusing to answer congressional subpeonas? Not important.
A congressman with $100,000 in the freezer? Not important.
The $700,000,000,000 bailout? Not important.
Conventional wisdom says electing an African American to the highest office in the land is a great moment for our democracy, but I have the sinking feeling we don't have a democracy at all anymore. Not enough people really care about what government does when they step into the voting booth, and the issues both sides try to get us impassioned about have nothing to do with the nuts and bolts of what government actually does.
To illustrate my last remark, Joe the Plumber and Glenn Beck.
I know. Double ick. Bear with me.
Joe goes on Beck's radio show and complains about answers he got from John McCain about the bailout. He was horribly disillusioned, but he didn't denounce the candidate, because he feared an Obama presidency more.
Let me turn the tables. Let's say Obama decided to talk about Matty the Math Teacher in one of the debates. Wouldn't stop talking about the guy. Matty this, Matty that, yap, yap, yap, yap, yap. The press camps out on my door. I go from just some guy to American Idol levels of fame in the space of 24 hours. I get to hang out with Barack and Michelle and I'm introduced at campaign rallies and the crowd cheers when my name rings out. What would I want to talk about?
Education would be the first thing. The most important public issue of the day, the bailout, would be the second. And I wasn't happy how quickly Obama took the "sensible" position that we had about a week to hand over to Bush and Paulson more money than the official cost of the war in Iraq so far or the Great Depression would start five days later. (Note: they didn't say the Great Depression would be avoided if we gave them the money, just that it would start if we didn't. Logic is a funny thing sometimes, but this time, nobody's laughing.)
Would I bite the hand that lifted me up? Knowing me, I might. But it wasn't as though McCain was offering a more palatable alternative. Like the other side of the Joe the Plumber coin, Matty the Math Teacher was certain a McCain presidency was exactly what we didn't need right now, and even though I might disagree with things Obama was doing, there's a good chance I might have kept my mouth shut, waved to the crowds and tried to figure out how I might get paid behind all the craziness.
When the bailout was proposed, no one was speaking for the majority of the people regardless of political ideology except some House Republicans and Democrats who stood against their party leadership, and they got bought off on the second vote. People didn't take to the streets over this ridiculously large amount of money. I think a big reason for the apathy is how bad people are at math. Some clever person figured out how much it would cost to buy all GM, Ford and Chrysler stock when the auto bailout was first proposed, and that the "loan" they were asking for was nearly ten times that much money. I don't recall any clever person giving us the price tag for buying all stock in AIG and all the troubled banks when the $700 billion price tag for the financial bailout was put forward. It probably wouldn't have changed the outcome anyway.
Honestly, Americans don't have a democracy anymore, and we don't deserve one. In other countries, people take to the streets when the government proposes something obviously against the public interest. In Panama, students rioted when the government proposed an increase in bus fares. South Koreans marched in the streets when American beef was going to be imported into the country again.
This September, the collapse of the world banking system was announced. George W. Bush and Hank Paulson, the incompetents on whose watch this disaster happened, came into the Rose Garden, held a figurative gun to the heads of the American people and say, "$2,300 from every man, woman and child in the country. NOW!"
And Americans rose up and said, "Yeah, okay. Whatever."
There's a famous couplet by Sir John Harington.
Treason doth never prosper, what's the reason?
For if it prosper, none dare call it treason.
In 21st Century America, the same can be said for theft on an incalculable scale.