I worked for elected representatives or political campaigns full-time between 2001 and 2012 and the question I got asked most often was if I thought politicians were corrupt or just incompetent. My answer has always been neither.
Politicians are many things, but corrupt and/or incompetent would not be the words I’d use to describe them. They are narcissistic, brilliant, mean, detached from reality, driven, caring, easily scared, and talented. The fact is they are just like the people who elected them. I know that might be hard to comprehend, but as George Carlin pointed out, politicians aren’t grown in a field somewhere and imported into our lives. They are raised by American parents, taught in American schools, go to American churches, watch American TV, etc. As Carlin eloquently pointed out, maybe it isn’t our politicians who suck, maybe it is the American public.
As far as corruption goes, I’ve never witness a candidate or politician ever take money and vote yes or no on an issue because of it. As has been pointed out many times before, people and organizations give money to politicians who already share their world view. Have votes been bought, I’m sure they have, I’ve just never seen it. But this discussion obscures the larger and more insidious problem. Most of the information that politicians and their staffs have come to rely on are provided by those monied interests. Even more dangerous, the only people who get the politicians ear are the ones who write the big checks.
*By the way, I’m not as pessimistic as George Carlin, but his points are powerful and compelling.