Thursday, August 11, 2005

Pay to Play

Typically, students of American political history like pointing to the character of specific locations, cities, states or quaint towns when referencing the phrase "pay to play." In Philadelphia, for example, it came as no surprise to find close aides, friends and trusted hacks of the city's Mayor (who claims complete ignorance) being investigated, indicted and then charged for having their sticky political fingers in the cooky jar. Or, everyone likes to poke fun or make hearty jest of hardball and corrupt style politics in places like Chicago, New York, or Louisiana.

The good ole' American past time is to apply political personalities to a region or location just like state mottoes or sports teams. Yet, this becomes problematic and creates a trend that shakes the very core of the representative democracy we live in since these assertions become so localized and trivialized to the point where we ignore the national ramifications.

Pay to play is the very essence of American politics. It's just that we are, as a society and body politic, very slick at making it seem as though this isn't the case. But, it shouldn't come as a surprise when we have arrived to a point where running for anything statewide or higher requires a million dollar purse, an inheritance or friends who access money for a living. The political world may be in a state of awe or shock at the recent indictment of Washington power lobbyist and Republican leadership money goat Jack Abramoff for fraud, but paying to play or stepping over others to get paid is something quintessentially Washington and inherently American. It's not rooted in pop culture, hip hop videos or Superbowl ads. How do you think it got there in the first place? Abramoff's troubles do not reflect some hushed Washington secret - and the fact that we treat it as such will gradually seal our political fate towards a very unkind and very Roman-inspired doom.