Saturday, August 26, 2006

Accountability and Corruption

MyDD :: Direct Democracy for People-Powered Politics
MyDD :: Direct Democracy for People-Powered Politics

There have been a few posts over on MyDD over the past few days (see Democratic Leaders to Run on Iraq War Accountability and Republican Corruption Back in the Fore?) Republican corruption and Republican lack of accountability and how that the Democrats can make use of these issues. To my mind, one of the most striking aspects of this discussion, here on MyDD and elsewhere, is the tendency to treat these issues as two separate issues. They are not. The Republicans have been claiming for the past few decades that they are inherently more virtuous (using as evidence their overt Christianity, or their attitudes towards sex, or their wealth, etc.). The Democrats cannot, and should not, being trying to argue that they have the greater inherent virtue and furthermore must make clear that they are not arguing that. The liberal position has been for centuries that the thing needed to keep corruption at bay is accountability and oversight. As long as humans are involved in government, relying upon their virtue is a mistake. And not because there are no virtuous people, but rather because in the absence of oversight even the most honest will loose their way,

The Democrats can capitalize on the Republican corruption, but they need to make clear that the reason for the growing Republican scandals is the lack of oversight, the lack of accountability. The Democrats will restore that accountability but make no claim to inherently superior virtue.

The point of this for the upcoming election is that the issue the Democrats need to focus on accountability. The Republicans have abandoned that principal and as a result we see the problems in Iraq, growing corruption in government, the failures of the Katrina response, the growing deficit. The Democrats will return to the vital principal of holding the government accountable. So corruption should be part of the Democratic talking points, but as an example supporting the main talking point of accountability.

One other thing on using corruption as an issue. We Democrats suffer horribly from impatience. The 'Culture of Corruption' as an election issue was started earlier this year. So far, having been used for six months and not bringing victory in the one case where it was used, we are thinking that it needs to be dropped. The Republicans started pushing the Democrats as weak on defense in the 1964 election and finally archived that as a fundamental view on Democrats by maybe 1972 (1968 at the earliest). Could be give it a little more time, with a little more variations in how we use it before giving up. We do tend to come up with these ideas that are very good, but abandon them very quickly when they don't bring immediate success. The culture of corruption will be a fact of Republican governance for as long as they abandoned oversight. We need to make it an issue for that same period of time.

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