A new Gilded Age?

The political era of the latter portion of the 19th century is often referred to as “The Gilded Age” in reference to the fact that under the gleam of strong and dominant political parties, government was rotten and corrupt.  The extreme corruption from the political parties led to the Progressive movement and a variety of policy changes designed to undercut the extreme influence of partisanship in the operation of government (e.g., secret ballot, primary elections, civil service reform).  Largely, these reforms worked and have led to a much healthier democracy since this time.  When one looks at the hackocracy George W. Bush is trying to create, it really seems he is doing his best to take us back to this gilded age when everything in government was about partisanship.  Here's the latest (Salon's summary of the Washington Post story):

As the House and Senate Judiciary Committees investigate charges
that the Bush administration tried to politicize the Justice
Department's prosecutorial function, Henry Waxman's House Oversight and
Government Reform Committee is looking into whether the administration
has tried to use the General Services Administration to help
Republicans win elections.

The evidence: It did.

As the Washington Post
reports this morning, several witnesses have told committee
investigators that GSA Administrator Lurita Alexis Doan and Karl Rove
deputy J. Scott Jennings met with dozens of GSA officials in January to
discuss Republicans' electoral prospects. The witnesses say that
Jennings showed the officials a PowerPoint presentation on post-2006
polling, and then Doan asked the officials how they could “help our
candidates” in the future.

Doan allegedly raised the idea of using “targeted public events, such
as the opening of federal facilities around the country,” to help GOP
candidates…

It's all part and parcel for anyone who's been paying attention. If
you're willing to fire U.S. attorneys to make way for your friends or
to retaliate for not prosecuting your enemies, why not assemble dozens
of federal officials to orchestrate petty political games around
building openings?

The good news is that this stuff was perfectly okay in the 1800's and now its illegal.  And with the Democrats in control again, Congress will actually do something about this. 

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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