Revolution to Revulsion

No sooner had the Washington establishment re-opened for business last week than word arrived about super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff's guilty plea. His plea contains eleven words requiring Abramoff "to provide evidence about members of Congress." And these words sent shock waves through Washington. It's not only Congress. As the Washington Post put it, the news sent "shock waves down K Street," the nickname for the lobbyists and trade groups that are an integral part of the Washington scene. And it has political ramifications: As former congressman Vin Weber told National Public Radio: ". . . there are enough parallels to the 1993-94 cycle that Republicans ought to be very, very nervous. . . . " Weber's invoking of the 1994 elections is apt. What we are seeing in Washington today is a repetition of how power and money lead not only to corruption but to a betrayal of our ideals. If people remember the 1994 "Contract with America" at all, they remember a series of policy proposals. But the "Contract" also promised to change the way Congress, and the rest of Washington, did business. The Democrats had controlled the Washington establishment, including Congress, for a generation. So Gingrich and company promised to clean the culture up, strip down the size and scope of government, and, in turn, curtail the power of K Street. Well, it has not happened. In eleven years, we have gone from what some people called a "revolution" to what most people today would call "revolting." The reason for this should not come as a surprise to any Christian: Corruption is ambidextrous -- both right as well as left. The ethical and moral failures that brought Republicans to power did not happen because Democrats were in charge but because flawed people were in charge. What's more, unlike the activists in both parties, K Street really did not care who was in charge. In 1994, when the Republicans swept into office, it went out and found clients whose interests and concerns were more amenable to Republicans. Then it found Republicans to make the client's cases -- for a handsome fee, of course -- and, soon, it was business as usual. Actually, it was worse than usual. Christians who had helped bring the GOP to power were betrayed and even duped into supporting causes, like Indian casinos, they never would have had the Democrats been in control. It has been disillusioning for many of us. Now, Abramoff's plea and his cooperation with prosecutors have politicians nervous and activists, especially Christians, feeling betrayed. The obvious response to this ambidextrous venality is, "A pox on both your houses!" If by "pox" you mean a renewed appreciation for the limitations of political alliances, I agree. But there is too much at stake to leave the fray altogether. So, instead of business as usual, Christians need to insist that meaningful reforms be made. Politicians who came to power on the promise of cleaning the place up need their feet held to the fire. And we must do something about money in politics. Okay, I know all the misgivings about the constitutionality of campaign finance reform. But these misgivings are increasingly being trumped by corruption like we see today. Power corrupts, as Lord Acton famously said, and sadly, that applies to some of our friends as well.


Chuck Colson


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