The excitement I got from canvassing for Bernie was this feeling that I could make a difference and help make the world more equitable and just. Besides the disappointment of seeing our “side” lose, it was very deflating when word came out that the political body that was running the primaries had “rigged” the election. I don’t mean literally, because as of now we don’t have proof of intentional vote rigging. We do see clearly however in email leaks, that this was not a “level playing field and may the stronger candidate win”. The professional party insiders had predetermined the nominee and were making sure the rank and file knew who to select.
Most people don’t spend a lot of time researching candidates and analyzing positions. I’m guilty of this myself. I needed to be made aware of the alternatives, and if I hadn’t had a redditor in my life (my husband), I probably would have just followed the narrative fed through the party machine to the mainstream news sources. Having my eyes opened up, almost feels like seeing the matrix, how our conceptions are being shaped by influential people, who have the money and connections to spread their agenda.
I go through a lot of ups and downs, thinking about whether one can really make a difference. After the primaries, I thought, I will focus on local elections, continue the revolution that way. But I see the influence of money locally, and it seems that even for politicians who start out with honorable intentions, the pay off easily corrupts them.
Even in the caring fields (health care, education, and politics, though most people think of politics as a dirty business, it really is meant to be serving the public), where one would expect altruism, and helping others to be the primary goal, the influence of money and power diminishes their effectiveness. It doesn’t make sense that there are more people in administrative roles in these fields, making higher salaries, while budgets are being cut for the core needs, resulting in teachers salaries not going up, classrooms getting more crowded, kids with special needs being denied services. The corruption seems to happen at the leadership level, where decisions to move money around can benefit administrators or provide favors.
They always say follow the money, and money is indeed a big influencer. One of the things I am reminded of from my years of religious study, is that money and religious authority often go hand in hand, quite like politics. I remember my modern orthodox school emphasizing the importance of separately making a living from torah study. In fact early Rabbis, deemed it important for torah scholars to have a profession separate from the rabbinate. Rashi, a medieval commentator on the torah, was held up as a model of a scholar who worked his own vineyard. Maimonides was not just a great jewish philosopher, he was a physician. In other words, if you make your living solely from teaching or influencing, you cannot be an example of living the words of torah.
On the other hand, there are the models of the priests in the bible, who had to live on whatever donations or tithes the people gave them, and could not own land, doing the temple and other religious work. That was an older model of a priestly caste who could not have any financial independence apart from serving the people.
I am by no means promoting either viewpoint, public servant as completely dependent on public funds or the opposite, having a citizen-volunteer model. I am just pointing out the recognition that financial independence or otherwise was understood to affect our leadership. To keep the public servant from selling out our common good for personal gain, we, at the very least, need to be aware of the issue of money influencing our public policy. Most of all, we need to educate ourselves and make it our duty as citizen-politicians to hold our leaders accountable.