Corruption in the U.S. starts in the highest office
December 5, 2018
While corruption has been a part of the American government since its inception, recent developments have brought its discussion to center stage. The election of Donald Trump brought to light questions of collusion with foreign powers, and the supposed biases of the mainstream media. Some St. Paul Academy and Summit School students believe that the current government is not aligned with what it means to be a democracy.
The election of Donald Trump, who campaigned on the platform of “draining the swamp” in regards to the current politicians in Washington D.C., has spurred on a national conversation questioning his intentions and integrity. Trump entered office with scandals and allegations plaguing him, including multiple sexual assault allegations and unclear business dealings. Perhaps the most glaring reason to suspect corruption in the White House is the ongoing FBI investigation concerning Trump campaign ties to Russia during the 2016 election.
Senior Jazz Ward believes that the Trump administration is doing a poor job of handling the Russia investigation and dispelling accusations of collusion.
“After Jeff Sessions was just fired and then Trump appointed a new AG [attorney general] Matt Whitaker who has said before that he thinks the Russia investigation shouldn’t be and he doesn’t think that Trump has done anything wrong. I think there should be an impartial investigation and I think [Robert] Mueller is a good person do that and I also think that since it’s the Trump administration being investigated, he [Trump] should stay out of it. I think that by not providing full details, specifically tax returns, and not meeting with Mueller is evidence to me that he doesn’t want something to be found,” Ward said.
The fact that President Trump has not released his tax returns is also a cause for concern for Ward.
“This is one of the first times that a president hasn’t released his tax returns. Especially for someone who’s made a big deal of running America like his business, it seems crazy to me that we wouldn’t be able to see how exactly he ran his business,” Ward said.
Attacks on free speech
President Trump has been slamming the “mainstream media” since he first started his campaign because they allegedly twisted his motives and put him in a bad light. By calling CNN, the Washington Post, MSNBC, and the New York Times all “Fake News,” Trump is constantly questioning the validity and integrity of news organizations. Trump ordered CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s White House credentials revoked and blamed the mainstream media for violence and polarization. 72 percent of Americans believe that “traditional major news sources report news they know to be fake, false, or purposely misleading” according to a poll from Axios and SurveyMonkey.
“I think the media, especially daytime news, can tend to sensationalize things for the sake of increasing revenue. The whole thing is built for a 9-11 style attack, for that 24/7 news cycle, so when you don’t have that kind of things, you have to run other stuff to fill in that time. That can also kind of feed off fear, which I think can also build that divide, but they’re [the media] also crucial for the integrity of the nation. Especially when Trump attacks institutions like the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal, places that are known for having journalistic integrity, that rubs me the wrong way,” Bluhm said.
The issue of voter suppression was a concern in the 2018 primaries, most notably in South Dakota, Florida, and Georgia. Republican Brian Kemp is Georgia’s secretary of state, and maintained this position while running against Stacey Abrams, who would have been the first African American woman governor.
This vastly affected younger voters and people of color. On Election day, many counties encountered difficulty accommodating the huge influx of voters. Particularly in districts that had a high minority percentage, voters were standing in line for hours waiting to cast their ballots due to the lack of working voting machines in combination with extremely high turnout.
Ward believes that the widespread voter suppression is a huge problem, in Georgia and in the United States as a whole.
“If you’re running for something you shouldn’t be overseeing the running. It’s not just that someone made a mistake and some votes aren’t being counted, it’s targeting minorities. When you look at how these minorities are voting, they’re voting Democrat, and so it’s clearly corruption and just trying to find a way to win unethically. I think voter suppression is horrible because a pillar of democracy is the freedom to vote, and the U.S. should be trying to make voting more accessible to people. Right now we aren’t seeing hundreds of millions of people voting, and I think that’s really an issue. Instead of trying to win and suppress voters, we should try and make it more accessible. When you look at whose votes aren’t counting and where they’re making voting difficult, there are clear signs of corruption,” Ward said.
Gerrymandering, the redrawing of district lines to strategically give an advantage to one party over the other by controlling the electorate, has been happening as long as elections in America have existed. Both parties have done it and both parties have benefited from it. But, in 2010, the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) launched a program called the Redistricting Majority Project (REDMAP) to build a firewall of Republican held seats and power by redrawing certain districts in order to elect more Republicans. This is widely acknowledged to be the most extensive and effective use of gerrymandering, and Americans are in the midst.
Because of REDMAP, republicans were often able to control the redistricting process.
“Gerrymandering is basically just giving those in power the ability to decide who gets to be in power. I think it also contributes to the political divide, and contributes more so to the lack of cooperation in the government. The lack of cooperation in the government can also be viewed in a sense as corruption, and the inability to cooperate is sometimes confused with corruption,” Bluhm said.
Money in Politics
In January of 2010, the Supreme Court ruled in the Citizens United vs Federal Election Commission (FEC) case that corporations and unions could spend unlimited sums of money on ads and other political tools for or against individual candidates.
More and more attention is being brought to the vast amount of money that is spent on candidates and in elections. In 2016, Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, and Hillary Clinton all agreed that the influence of money in politics is troublesome. There has been an increasing call for more small money individual donations or not accept- ing any money from corporates PACs in an attempt to quell the ever-rising influence of large dollar donors.
Bluhm believes that although money is a crucial part of elections and politics, the amount of influence that money and people with money have is concerning.
“I do think it’s wrong for a Democratic society to be influenced by powerful and moneyed people, but also to a certain extent [the influence] it can be overblown. There has to be a line drawn between supporting candidates for what they believe in and paying candidates for voting particular ways, because those are separate things and the line is very much being blurred. Especially when you look at the FCC Net Neutrality vote, where there were a lot of internet service providers that had given money to Republicans that ended up voting no on the bill that was protecting net neutrality,” Bluhm said.
Originally published in the November 2018 edition of The Rubicon.