David Hoppe

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:: Campaigns and cash

Thatís entertainment!

by David Hoppe

There goes another one: over the weekend the Ukrainian “President,” Viktor Yanukovych, was last seen boarding a helicopter, getting the hell out of Dodge or, in his case, Kiev.

Yanukovych was just a few steps ahead of an angry mob that had braved bullets and bone-chilling temperatures by way of protesting his decision to keep his country in satellite mode, orbiting Mother Russia.

Thank heavens for the Olympics. Without the Black Sea distractions of the Sochi games, Russian tanks might today be rumbling round what’s left of Kiev’s central gathering place, the quite literally-named Independence Square.

The street fight in Kiev is just the latest in what appears to be an ongoing series of political upheavals that began in Egypt in 2011. These events have prompted what’s become a formulaic response from our government. Susan Rice, President Obama’s National Security Adviser, delivered a variant of this party line recently on Meet the Press: “This is about whether the people of the Ukraine have the opportunity to fulfill their aspirations and be democratic…”

As usual, the implicit idea here is that countries where governments are run by small coteries of profiteers who are unresponsive, or worse, to the needs and desires of their people are asking for trouble. They need to get their various acts together and become more like…well, more like us.

Trouble is, the more I hear our representatives scolding other governments for thwarting the aspirations of their people, the more it sounds like we’re talking about ourselves.

If opinion polling is to be believed, it appears public confidence in all three branches of our federal government is circling the drain. A majority of folks seem to have lost faith in President Obama; but their view of Congress is worse. Even the Supreme Court, for years viewed by most as a bastion of judicial integrity, appears tainted by partisan and personal interests as far as a majority of Americans is concerned.

The local picture’s not much better. Every legislative session brings more news of influence peddling and lobbying. Money walks — and talks — in Indianapolis. In announcing his candidacy for mayor here, Democrat Frank Short estimated he would need no less than $4 million to run for that office.

But mention campaign finance reform, or any attempt to try and wean our politics away from the spell of big time cash, and you’ll be laughed out of the room.

Instead of fulfilling peoples’ aspirations, our politicians are spending more and more of their energy trying to stay in office. These seemingly endless campaigns benefit big money special interests, because politicians can’t sustain their careers without hefty infusions of cash, which, of course, also manage to focus the candidates’ attention to selected issues in marvelous ways.

Corporate media gets its cut. Plenty of money means plenty of advertising, not to mention a bottomless supply of the kind of content that used to be found in Sports: winners, losers, ups, downs, blown chances and heart-warming redemption. Politics is the new entertainment.

At least it keeps us off the streets.