The Best Congress Money Can Buy
There was a time in our life — we can’t remember when — when it was considered naive to think politicians could be bought.
It wasn’t so simple, we were told, not so obvious. You don’t just hand over a bag of cash and order a vote. No, it was far more subtle — the ability to make a call or walk into an office and command attention, a degree of access unavailable to a mere constituent. You’re buying influence, not action.
And that may have well been the case. Just like it was once the case that MTV played videos. Or that our nation once celebrated what we called “democratic norms”. But whatever world may have existed a generation or two back, it no longer exists today.
You might think folks would notice.
As we write, it’s midnight in DC, and the Senate tax bill has yet to pass. It’s been a lock for most of the day, but then lobbyists rushed in with a list of stocking stuffers, and those are still being processed. The bill is a massive transfer of wealth from the many to the few, its cost measured in literally innumerable ways — innumerable because the “final” text has not been available long enough for anyone to read it, never mind the illegible scribbled amendments. There is no economic argument, even a flimsy one, for its passage. There is only the fact that insanely wealthy Republican donors have threatened to turn off the spigot if they don’t get their reward.
The votes have been bought and paid for. The naive view has won out. You don’t even need to be a hardened cynic to see it.
We knew all this going in, of course. We knew that Republicans were ignoring evidence of Russian interference in our election because the result favored them — a final rig to a system they’ve been doggedly rigging for years. There was never an argument for exotic gerrymandering, or aggressive voter identification, or limited early voting, or anything that stifles the will of the people who are nominally represented. There only was, and is, the naked pursuit of power in service to those with the means to purchase market-friendly souls.
So why do we keep pretending otherwise?
The “we” here is admittedly circumscribed: A third of the population are racist cultists, after all, and slightly more than half the Congress is more than happy to pander to their fears with the money donors provide. In turn, there is a vast media infrastructure, foreign and domestic, that churns out the wave after wave of propaganda required to keep these small minds and lost souls comfortable in the false reality they’ve constructed to fend off the world that exists.
They are not we. We are the rest of us.
Every publication, every broadcast, every website that claims to practice journalism should be reporting these facts, this world, this reality. Every outlet that doesn’t, that continues to treat this as some Great Debate between honest opponents, is only contributing to our national demise by ignoring it. We should not have to struggle daily to see the world as it is through the haze of what we are told about it.
We do not pretend that the journalism we imagine would solve the problems that bedevil us — they are deep and enduring. But we cannot begin to solve our problems until we see them for what they are, and journalism that doesn’t provide that essential service isn’t worth preserving.
Because our government is being straight-up bought. You might remind us of that while you’re excitedly telling us whether Mitch McConnell has the votes to complete the purchase.