Our government is so corrupt it is odious even in the eyes of patriots. In a Gallup poll measuring reputations of professions, nurses finished first; 80 percent judged their integrity to be high. Members of Congress finished last at 7 percent, a full 14 percent behind lawyers. Even these numbers don’t capture the depth of public anger. If the anger turns to cynicism millions will walk away from politics. Millions already have. If it finds a voice we may have an Arab Spring of our own, maybe as soon as 2016. If so, the less-prepared party will be blown away. As things stand now, that would be the Democrats.
Republicans are by nature better at ginning up anger, but lately it’s as if they had the patent on it. Progressives were first to oppose the 2008 Wall Street bailout. The first protest was hosted by TrueMajority, a liberal advocacy group founded by Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream fame. But by 2009 Obama owned the bailout and word went out that to attack it would only undercut him. Enter the Tea Party, amidst cries of “crony capitalism,” to tap the rich vein of public anger. For the first time, economic populism was the property of conservatives. It was some gift.
As for the Democrats, Hillary Clinton may not be the worst person to fly the reform flag, but then again, she might be. Her first problem is her past. If the Clintons didn’t invent pay-to-play politics, with such minions as Rahm Emanuel and Terry McAuliffe in tow, they came close to perfecting it. Her second problem is her present: her special way of handling her email; the alleged conflicts of interest over at the Clinton Foundation; the pricey speeches she gave and Bill still insists on giving. Her third problem is how she handles questions about it all: her defensive tone; her far-too-clever syntactical evasions; her insistence on being praised even as she stumbles; and, yes, her seeming sense of entitlement.