All but a few macho holdouts among the let-men-be-men faction agree that Anthony Weiner is not worthy of becoming mayor of America’s biggest city, but there is a perennial threat to our democracy that is far larger than the turgid tweets of the former congressman from New York. That threat is the ongoing whoredom of members of Congress who remain in office.
It is no secret that our senators and representatives expend a significant amount of time and effort every week of the year soliciting campaign donations from lobbyists for corporations and other special interest groups and from fat cat donors who have interests of their own. Most who take the cash will insist that they are not selling their votes and, in most cases, that may be technically correct. The reality, though, is that all that money drives the congressional agenda and buys an open door into the rooms where legislation is crafted. The votes automatically follow.
Certainly, there are a few men and women in Washington whose motives and philosophy are so pure that money does not sway them, but, too often, the money shapes the philosophy and justifies the motives. A case in point is the issue of gun rights.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has said that everyone inside the Beltway “lives in terror of the gun lobby.” After the string of horrific shootings that crippled a member of Congress and brought slaughter to a movie theater in Colorado and a primary school in Connecticut, many thought the federal government would, at last, act to place limits on the availability of high capacity ammo clips and assault rifles. Of course, that did not happen.
Was opposition to any type of firearms control a) inspired by a sincere, deep-seated belief in an absolutist interpretation of the 2nd Amendment or b) were Republican representatives and senators simply worried that showing any sensibility or nuance on the issue would lose them funding from the National Rifle Assn. and lead to a primary challenge from a candidate even more in thrall to the gun lobby? If you picked a), rest assured that the Tooth Fairy will be by tonight and there is a pot of gold waiting at the end of the next rainbow you see.
The gun issue is merely one area where special interest money drives the agenda. Pick any area of national concern — banking regulation, environmental protection, education, military funding — and know that the voice of the voters is a faint squeak compared with the roar of all that money talking.