Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was recently arrested on corruption charges stemming from his alleged attempt to peddle Obama’s senate seat to the highest bidder. Those familiar with Illinois politics will not find this shocking at all. However, it is an interesting matter to discuss.
While Republicans have generally been the ones in trouble in recent years, this has mainly been due to the fact that they have been in power. Blagojevich, assuming he did what he was alleged to do, has shown that the Democrats can be just as corrupt as their counterparts in the Grand Old Party. Since the Democrats are the party in power now, it seems reasonable to expect more cases of corruption and misdeeds involving Democrats to surface in the future. After all, politics is rather corrupting.
While it seems obvious that attempting to peddle a senate seat for financial gain is clearly a violation of professional ethics and the law, it could be argued that this situation does not warrant such special attention and moral outrage. After all, political positions are bought and sold as a matter of standard practice in politics. For example, Hillary Clinton certainly seems to have received her cabinet post as a reward for her actions and perhaps as a bribe. Likewise, most appointed positions in government are handed out to those who have benefited the person in charge of those appointments. While the idea of placing the best person in a job is appealing, political appointments are a form of currency-you pay back people who provided you with support (political, financial or other) you needed to get the office and hold onto it.
Obviously, the fact that the practice is a common one does not make it right. But it should, one might contend, mitigate the special outrage people seem to feel in this specific case. If the Governor was going to peddle the senate seat, then he was just doing what politicians do. As such, he should not be singled out for special criticism or contempt.
That said, there seems to be a difference between what he allegedly did and what most other politicians do. While politicians do peddle influence and positions, they tend to be a bit more restrained in their dealings. This can be illustrated by the following analogy.
To be a bit cynical, people often go on dates in the hope of having sex or for getting something in return for having sex. For example, one might go out on various dinner, movie and coffee dates with a person in the hopes of having sex. The other person might go on such dates in order to get free dinners, movies and coffee knowing that they will be expected at some point to “pay” for these things. What makes this sort of behavior acceptable is that the “transaction” is concealed and handled in a (more or less) restrained manner. Such dating is analogous to the way most politicians peddle off their goods. As long as they do it with adequate restraint, it is generally both expected and accepted (or at least tolerated).
Continuing the analogy, the case at hand would be like going on a “date” with someone and they say “what I’ve got here is f@#$ing valuable. You can have sex for a whole bunch of cash.” In this case, the dating rituals have been ignored and what is happening is, instead, a case of prostitution and pimping. While the crude details are roughly the same (trading goods for sex) the way it is handled makes a significant amount of difference. Obviously, pimping political positions in this manner is about as acceptable as open prostitution-that is, not at all.
If the Governor did what he was alleged to have done, he would have been wiser to have set up a date rather than picking up his pimp cane. He would have probably gotten a bit less; but at least he would not have had the FBI at his door before dawn.