In Nassau County, District Attorney Madeline Singas has repeatedly called for laws to restrict taxpayer-funded mailings that serve no real purpose other than to tout incumbent officials, especially in the weeks before Election Day.
In Albany, reforms that would hinder the enrichment schemes of the politically powerful have been stymied.
On the national stage, presidential candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders yell that the system is bought and paid for, and in return they are scorned by politicians and pundits. Yet, the two surprising front-runners are embraced by many people.
It’s clear that voters are disgusted with every level of government. The system, from the village square to Washington’s inner circle, seems to exist purely to reinforce the power of the powerful. But what can voters do with their outrage?
For starters, many say they support Trump or Sanders. The two stand for very different visions, but speak out against the same thing: a corrupt system that works for career politicians and lobbyists, corporations and contributors, but not We the People.
Taxpayers see wasteful spending, tax-funded signs at every park and political mailers that trumpet the names of those in local government. They see the faux jobs and no-bid contracts for pals. And they know the wasted money could have gone to desperately needed bus routes that were just cut.
We know there are municipalities where the right fixer is needed to expedite a building permit for a porch. We see corrupt Senate and Assembly leaders convicted of crimes of arrogance and pettiness, defended by lawyers paid for with campaign contributions. And yet, they still walk away with fat pensions. We understand that in Washington, the primary job of our representatives is raising funds to stay in power, clawing the money from people who need their influence to make things work for them. So the corporate tax attorneys write the tax code, and the food companies write the food safety regulations, and the energy executives allot the energy subsidies.
A Marist Poll said last May that just over 20 percent of New York voters believed the State Legislature was doing a good job. Nationally, Gallup’s 2015 congressional approval number was 16 percent.
We’re told to vote in every election, but we sometimes have to wonder what there is to vote for. A hand-picked incumbent, cross-endorsed by multiple parties and unopposed, barely opposed or opposed by someone who just wants a turn to pillage the system?
Candidates not blessed by insiders mostly can’t even get on the ballot thanks to deliberately arcane state rules. And the news media often contribute to the status quo, with scorn for upstarts, tacit support for establishment candidates and too little exposition of the rotten core.
Will good-government groups ever win a round? Can the political establishment ever be frightened into changing its ways? At least now, we know it can be frightened. You only have to look at the once-confident backers of Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton, and the poll numbers of Trump and Sanders, to see that.