Bribery and extortion

Why “cleaning up the mess in Washington” ought to be a key Democratic issue.

A reader points out that many of the campaign contributions I described as “legalized bribery” are better understood as extortion. Absolutely right. That’s the Rove/Armey/DeLay/Abramoff/Norquist revolution, which if it succeeds will move the country a long way not only toward permanent Republican rule but also toward a kleptocratic “crony capitalist” system to replace not only legitimate politics but also real capitalism.

Sending all of the perpetrators to jail will help, but it won’t be enough. They also need to suffer massive electoral defeats in 2006 and 2008.

That should be the Democratic slogan for the next three years:

Clean up the mess in Washington! Throw the rascals out!

If there’s to be a Democratic “Contract with America,” some of its content should be policy initiatives designed to benefit the bottom 99% of the income distribution at the expense of the top 1%; some of it should be replacing ideology with science and common sense in decision-making; and the rest should be reform of the political and governing processes, including honest vote-counting. Like 1974, this is a moment at which “process liberalism” might have wide public appeal.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: