Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Some Quick Comments on the News of the Day

by Norman Markowitz

First of course the scandal in Illinois. The U.S.Attorney has revealed damning material against the Governor Rod Blagojevich, accusing him of trying to sell his power to appoint a Senator to replace Barack Obama for a whole series of political and personal plumbs. Senator Obama has
promptly called for his resignation. As an historian, I thought immediately of the scandal in New York City in 1932, when Governor Franklin Roosevelt was running for President and the colorful Tammany Hall mayor, Jimmy Walker, was under investigation by the Seabury Commission. There weren't phone taps involved then, although the tabloid press would have loved them. Governor Roosevelt helped to pressure Walker to resign and his eventual successor, Fiorello La Guardia, although nominally a Republican, much closer to everything that the New Deal came to be than Jimmy Walker ever was (La Guardia was eventually forced out of the Republican party and in his third term election (1941) and in 1937 and 1941 was re-elected with the support of the American Labor Party, a left and CPUSA supported third party that became a force in New York City politics until the cold war destroyed it.Blagojevich should resign and hopefully be replaced by an honest progressive. We should also remember that political corruption is and has long been endemic in U.S. politics. In the 1930s, the disconnect between the national New Deal administration and many local corrupt Democratic machines which supported New Deal policies for the patronage it brought them led the Republicans, bereft of serious political ideas, to crusade against such corruption, making prosecutors like Thomas E. Dewey, who was to twice run unsuccessfully for President on the Republican ticket, into their political heroes. Ultimately most scholars believe that the development of New Deal social welfare policies and a stronger national government substantially reduced corruption on the local level. Deregulation and privatization have in all probability strengthened corruption.