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years ago, Congress began to change when politics became more mechanized. It used to be of interest to members to discuss matters of the day on the floor. We spoke more casually. When we debated, it was an exchange of ideas. There was more personality to the matter. They were not merely little Univac machines. At no time was there an immediate demand that you join a particular ideological group. The real test was whether or not your decisions withstood the test of time. Today, everything is an instant reaction to an instant poll. Members don’t act like persons, they act like machines. I had a rather broad program, a lot of it to do with environmental protection, consumer protection, industrial safety. Real issues, I thought, rather than issues brought up by professional advisers, by ideological organizations that stamp you liberal or conservative. What defeated me in last election was not the fact that I voted against the oil companies, who put up the money. I was beaten by the accusation that I was for gun control, and that I had voted against curtaihnent of the right of the court to insist on the abolition of segregation. They liked to call it busing. My stand was that busing ought to be required where it was necessary in order to do away with the vestiges of segregation. Most of these were cases where the court ordered that. It would not have defeated me in the old regime. It would not have overwhelmed other things on my record, as it did in a concentrated blitz, within three months before the election. There was something like $850,000 spent against me. To about $350. A record of 22 years in an elective office in essentially the same district can be overwhelmed in three months. The third issue was prayer in schools. If there were a real debate on the issue, I would have won out. I was in favor of the Supreme Court decision that prevented religious intrusion into the schools. My opponent challenged me to a debate, and when I accepted, he withdrew. It was presented in 20-second television spots, in overwhelming abundance. I’d have been able, with time or in debate, to show it was a single, more or less meaningless exercise that had absolutely nothing to do with anybody’s true beliefs, aside from being against the law of the land. You can’t do that in 20 seconds. Television could be a very great thing for politics. It could create a revival of the stump. Instead, it actually destroys analysis, debate, reason, and substitutes advertising. One-liners. Two-liners take up too much time. There’s a TV picture of a politician. He comes from Texas and he’s got a bunch of Brahman cattle behind him and his family is romping through the woods. It has nothing to do with politics. You’ve got an unlimited amount of time for this kind of programming, if you’ve got the money. I’d limit the appearance to the person himself, speaking in his own voice, without any background. Most politicians that haven’t got much to say would soon exhaust the public’s interest in them. The scandals, open or secret, are happening so regularly, it’s as if one is constantly irritated by a blow on the shins to a point where he’s no longer sensitive. What the Reagan administration has discovered is that that which becomes commonplace is no longer a scandal. The violations have been unprecedented in their repetitiousness. People have lost their sense of outrage. Know why? People are really not interested in politics. They’ve got too many other interests. You find people know so much about football. If they knew the same amount about the stock market, they’d be millionaires. Trivialities have overwhelmed us. The press and political advisers have learned that if they use generalities and get them fixed in people’s minds, they’ll win: Get the government off our backs; deregulation is desirable. People are naturally conservative. They don’t want to see much changed. If you can present a matter as a specific issue Teapot Dome or Hooker Chemical’s pollution at Love Canal people are liberal. Reagan succeeded because of general propositions: He’s a nice fella; he’s gettin’ the government off our backs; he doesn’t want any new taxes. People remember Big Government and forget big crooks. I think Americans have lost a sense of healthy skepticism. I always remember those old conversations with my family. My father was a doctor, who was not particularly political, always talking to his daddy’s brother or to his sisters. They questioned the President. They questioned Congress. The issues were specific. It wasn’t just an attitude: Oh, they’re just a bunch of scoundrels in Washington. It had to do with just not quite believing everything that came their way. I think we’ve lost that. Legalized Corruption BY RONNIE DUGGER HONEST GRAFT: Big Money and the American Political Process By Brooks Jackson New York: Knopf, 1988 337 pages, $18.95 THE BEST CONGRESS MONEY CAN BUY By Philip Stern New York: Pantheon, 1988 321 pages, $18.95 THE OTHER DAY the top fundraisers for the presidential campaigns of George Bush and Michael Dukakis said they raised a total of $137 million in “soft money” for their candidates, in about equal parts. Hundreds of contributors gave both sides the legal limits, $100,000 truly this was “the return of the fatcats.” The special-interest Political Action Committees, foisted on the country in 1974 by laborunion lobbyists who should not have had to be told that the corporations have more money than working people, have now rotted out the Congress. Realistically understood, PAC “contributions” are sums of money that are paid to politicians, for their use in the election ‘campaigns, in exchange for specific votes or as retrospective rewards for them, to buy the giver the highly unfair advantage of special access to elected officials, or at the very least to create a general bias in favor of the giver. For appearing at staged PAC pseudo-events and saying a few words, members of Congress are paid that is, they extract from the PACs, for themselves personally one or two thousand dollars a throw, legalized payments that are called “honoraria.” These totaled more than eight million dollars in 1987. Powerful Representatives and Senators accept more such payments: luxurious vacations as guests of PACs and corporations. Members of Congress elected before 1980 have given themselves permission at law to keep for themselves personally all the unspent campaign contributions they can pile up. This raid on democracy by its supposed custodians has openly converted “campaign contributions” into personal gifts to personally enrich the most senior and thus the most powerful members of Congress. In this debased Congressional environment, the powers of incumbency, which include incumbents’ collusive misuse of public funds for reelection campaigning \(the cover name menace and thus to blackmail special corporate interests, have resulted in a relatively new phenomenon, unbeatability. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7