With the election season rolling closer the Democrats must be rather concerned that they are making headlines for (alleged) ethics violations. The latest news involves Maxine Waters.
While I think that politicians should avoid conflicts of interest, my first reaction to the report of her one alleged violation was that she seemed to merely doing business as usual. While the appeal to common practice is a fallacy, it seems reasonable to wonder why she would be singled out for this violation when other have not. Of course, consistency is rarely the way the political game is played.
One of the main concerns about these ethics issues is how they will impact the upcoming elections. Obviously, being associated with an ethics violation is not a plus to a politician’s chances. However, it need not be a fatal blow. After all, an examination of history shows that politicians often keep on getting elected even in the face of such allegations.
As the pundits have also noted, the Republicans are in a bit of a dilemma when it comes to pushing the matter. While Democrats are now in the spotlight, the Republicans have a long history of ethics violations in their ranks as well. As such, they might be reluctant to make this a major issue. Also, there is the interesting possibility that the Democrats can use this to their advantage. While Democrats are the ones being investigated, the Democrats are also in power. This can thus be used to “show” that the Democrats are serious (or wish to appear serious) about “draining the swamp.” This might help the party as a whole a little bit, depending on how they play it.
There is also the fact that Americans have come to expect and even tolerate such behavior. For example, Rangel’s adventures in taxes and housing have been well known for quite some time, yet it is only now that there seems to be even a remotely serious response. He doesn’t seem very worried at this point and perhaps he has no real reason to be concerned.
To switch to a more general point, the wealth of politicians often worries me. After all, while being in Congress or other political posts can pay well, the jobs generally do not pay extremely well. Yet a significant number of politicians are very wealthy. In some cases this is because they come from money or married money. However, it often seems to be the case that they are able to use their offices as cash cows. True, the most extreme violations that make it to the public eye do result in the occasional punishment, but much of what would seem to involve a conflict of interest is passed off merely as being lobbying or some other allegedly legitimate practice.
I suspect that the easy flow of money and influence means that the swamp will always be full. Perhaps a snake or two might be extracted (or sacrifice), but that swampy ecosystem seems rather robust. And, unlike the real ecosystems, it seems to thrive quite well with all the spills coming from big oil.