Walking the talk by @BloggersRUs

Walking the talk

by Tom Sullivan

Democrats poised to take control of the House need to make plain they mean to arrest the corruption. Public expectations of American governance more ethical than a banana republic were on the wane long before the Trump administration abandoned all pretense..

Upon taking control of the House in January, Democrats will still lack the power to get anything past Sen. Mitch McConnell, but they intend to focus public attention on cleaning up Washington by making their first move in the new Congress introduction of a sweeping anti-corruption bill to halt the slide. If that's "virtue signalling," more of that, please. It is also leading.

House Resolution 1 will address the concerns of a majority of Americans about the corrosive effects of big money in politics.

"Our best friend in this debate is the public,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in announcing the proposal on Friday.

Rep. John Sarbanes of Maryland spearheads the effort, Vox reports, having long rejected taking PAC money. House Democrats are coordinating their effort with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA) who in September introduced her own anti-corruption bill in the Senate. Sarbanes and Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington introduced Warren's bill in the House in November.

Sarbanes acknowledges challenging Republicans to behave better is not enough:

“Walk the walk, and we’ve got to walk it quick,” Sarbanes told Vox in a recent interview. “A lot of [voters] don’t believe it can happen because the system is rigged. That’s why when you come with a plan for that, too, it sort of caffeinates everything else. It makes them feel like, okay now you’re talking.”

“It’s not until you come here and begin to serve that you understand how woven it is into the fabric of how Washington operates,” Sarbanes continued. The Congress member compared his own refusal of PAC money to putting on “night-vision goggles that have you then see how money flows everywhere here.”

But a bullet list of what House Resolution 1 will contain shows House Democrats mean to address far more than political donations. Martin Longman has a list:
  • A requirement that members of Congress stop using taxpayer money to settle sexual harassment cases or buy first-class plane tickets.
  • A new ethical code for the US Supreme Court.
  • Restoration of the gutted Voting Rights Act of 1965.
  • Public financing of campaigns, including a voluntary 6-1 match for candidates for president and Congress.
  • A requirement that Super PACs and “dark money” political organizations make the identity of their donors public.
  • A requirement that social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter disclose the source of money for political ads they run and an accounting of how much money was spent.
  • Money for improved elections security, including a requirement that the Director of National Intelligence provide regular updates on foreign threats.
  • A requirement that President Trump release his tax returns.
All these items poll well and some Republicans might go along for that reason, Longman writes, adding, "The hope is that anyone who won’t support these measures is going to open themselves up to potent lines of attack, and some people who would not otherwise be vulnerable will begin to find themselves in jeopardy if they continue to defy popular common-sense legislation."

Jim Lardner at American Prospect adds public integrity was a large issue in 2018 elections. Given the trajectory of investigations into the Trump administration, it will be a major one in 2020:

In other words, a big change in the political weather may be brewing, and history (post-Watergate history, for example) portends a powerful anti-corruption backlash that will put Wall Street’s and corporate America’s worst political enablers at extreme risk. That would be a huge opportunity for Democrats and progressives—if they’re prepared for it.

Democrats can prepare by committing themselves to a game-changing set of new rules for elections and government service, and a code of conduct to follow in the here and now. Progressives can do their part by building an institutional infrastructure to get lawmakers and candidates to heed the call.

Lawmakers might, as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has proposed, pledge to reject donations from any industry overseen by committees on which they sit. (Better yet, pledge to take no PAC money at all.) "They could require every campaign contribution be traceable to its ultimate source," Lardner adds:
Democrats should not be exempt from this scrutiny. Without being sanctimonious or dismissive of the arguments against “unilateral disarmament,” progressives should call on them to reimagine themselves as something more—far better—than just one of two political parties using the existing tools of power to win elections and promote policies.

Republicans, after all, do not see themselves that way. They have assumed the form of a ruling party in a tinhorn semi-dictatorship. They’re in the business of subverting, not wielding, the machinery of democracy. They have taken our country dangerously far in the direction of authoritarianism, nationalist demagoguery and plutocracy. Democrats need to be the solution – the standard-bearers of fairness and integrity.

Democrats will need more than purity and pledges to yank the mirrored sunglasses off a corrupt political and financial elite. They will need power and to deliver it back into the hands of the powerless.

Matthew Walther at The Week argues the decline in American life expectancy driven by suicide and drug overdoses is not simply a product of economic anxiety or cultural diversification, but is the product of Americans living "increasingly atomized, if comparatively more prosperous, existences for half a century now." He continues:

They live in self-segregated communities in which the only meaningful bonds with their neighbors and even their extended families are those to which they have consented. Their experience has not prepared them for financial uncertainty, violence, atrophying attention spans, and drug taking. For them there really is no such thing as society.
This, this is the product of decades of a political philosophy that lionizes atomization. As Margaret Thatcher preached, "There are individual men and women and there are families ... There is no such thing as society."

For years, no one has had people's backs. Americans feel powerless because they have been conned out of it by the powerful and been told societal cooperation was proof of personal weakness. Now we have a weak president obsessed with his own power and with no concern for that of the governed. Democrats have a chance, maybe one chance, to reverse that. They should make the most of it.