John McCain’s body was barely cold when Lindsey Graham slithered up onto the couch at Fox and Friends to present his subservient belly to their skeptical audience. With his hero and surrogate conscience lying in state at the Capitol, Graham must find allies where he can. Winter is coming.
Early in the Trump administration the furious Republican effort to protect Trump from the criminal justice system seemed odd. Sure, his win granted them some welcome opportunities, but none of those opportunities would be dented by President Pence. It seemed plain that the party could benefit from distancing themselves from the most corrupt and unpopular public figure in modern life. Then the evidence started to emerge and the picture grew darker.
There is no way for Republicans to distance themselves from Trump because they are complicit in the crimes that placed him in power. No one in a prominent position in the GOP can allow justice to run its course for Trump in safety. The fight to protect Trump is the fight to protect the vampire squid of bribery that supports their livelihoods.
The simple stock fraud that brought down Rep. Collins this year is child’s play compared the organized graft enjoyed by Duncan Hunter. Despite his corruption he probably won’t lose his seat. Conviction will be tough to obtain since bribery is essentially legal in our system. If Hunter goes to prison, it will be for sloppy accounting practices, not bribery. What makes Hunter unique in Congress is that he was too dumb to manage his books.
By contrast, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher has been on the Kremlin payroll for so long that Russian intelligence has assigned him a codename. Let’s just talk plainly here. One (at least one) of our Congressmen is an intelligence asset on the Russian payroll. That fact is sufficiently well documented to be referenced in New York Times articles and safely published here with no risk of libel. And that man is still favored to win re-election this year in California. He has no fear of our justice system because he is beyond democratic accountability.
Russian interference in our electoral system is an outrage, partly for its implications for our fundamental national security. But that interference would not have been possible without an existing structure of corrupt incentives. Our lack of any meaningful campaign finance laws always undermined the democratic process, but now this flaw has become a national security threat. The Russians waged a far more concentrated and energetic campaign to influence our politics during the Cold War with far less success. They’re replaced ideology with money, and now they own one of our political parties.
A review of the indictment of Maria Butina outlines the scope and tenure of this successful campaign. We know now that the Russians have been bankrolling the NRA. We know that Attorney General Jeff Sessions lied under oath about his contacts with the Russians during the campaign. There’s no room to outline the depth and scope of the already-revealed links between Russian intelligence and the GOP. In short, every single Republican politician who accepted a campaign contribution from the NRA in recent years, and that’s a lot of congressmen and legislators, may have taken money from the Kremlin. And no one, even inside the GOP, can be confident they know how far that influence reaches.
The core problem isn’t Russian interference in our politics. The core problem is that our political system and its elected officials are for sale. If it wasn’t the Russians it would have been someone else.
Republican donors prefer to back politicians who are spineless and compromised because they can be more easily steered. Religious nutjobs are their particular favorites for a couple of reasons. First, they tend be perverts, which makes bribery cheaper. Even better, they’re infinitely credulous, vulnerable to believing any manner of nonsense necessary to justify idiotic policies.
No single court case is going to drain this swamp. The Special Counsel is not going to save us. Remove Donald Trump, and the next compromised politician will tumble right into his vacant hole.
There is no ideological or partisan boundary to the bribery infecting our system. For an introduction to the political bribery that runs Democratic politics, review some of the court documents in the corruption case of New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez. Menendez has dodged justice for the moment because he resisted the temptation to lie the FBI and he kept a clean accounting of his extensive bribes. Democrats tend to be smarter and more systematic about their corruption.
Democratic bribery operates in ways that are slightly different than on the right, but toward the same outcome. If you comfort yourself with the delusion that Democrats will save us from the influence on money in politics, you do not want to follow Andrew Cuomo or Rahm Emanuel through their average workday. By itself, electing Democrats will not change the way our system undermines democratic accountability.
If the rot in our system is so pervasive that it extends beyond partisan boundaries, why is it important to vote for Democrats in the near term? There is a nascent movement in the Democratic Party to attack established norms. That movement is being led by figures in the Sanders mold who favor a policy program drawn from the far left which I mostly dislike. That program is just as much of a threat to the corrupt politicians in the Democratic Party as it is to Republicans, which makes it preferable to supporting either Republicans, or moderate Democrats.
Conservatives had their chance to build a new American Century. They rejected the advice of men like John McCain to limit the corrupting influence of bribery in our system, instead embracing a new wave of graft with breathtaking lust. Now McCain is dead and their opportunity is lost. My side failed America. All conservatives have left with which to comfort themselves is their dirty money and the cult loyalty of their idiot followers. When Trump goes down, none of them will be safe.
Disruption threatened by the electoral success of a slate of new left politicians is our only remaining shot at restoring small-d democratic accountability through peaceful means. After they win there will be plenty of opportunities to engage them politically and steer the entire system toward more sensible policy outcomes. Unless they win, ordinary voters will see their influence over public life continue to dwindle. The word “democracy” itself will become a joke, and the peaceful continuation of our political experiment can no longer be assumed or credibly supported.
Our future depends on the near term success of a restive left. God help us all. And conservatives have no one to blame but ourselves.