In the end, the fact that Jesse Jackson, Jr. is going to jail in disgrace is less significant than what his disgraceful career represents. Jackson is only one man, and many men have failed their responsibilities to society while showing dire deficits of character in the process. Jackson’s career, however, is smoking gun evidence of the travesty we have allowed America’s democratic system of government to become. If there are any who still wonder why the nation seems incapable of addressing its problems and challenges responsibly, look no further. This is a democracy whose citizenry has become too complacent, lazy, apathetic and ignorant for the privilege of self-government. The implications of this are terrifying.
Reading the various articles about Jackson’s imminent guilty plea to conspiracy charges, I was struck by the realization that this one-time rising political star is a child. He misappropriated over $750,000 in campaign funds to buy, among other gewgaws like a Rolex watch, such indefensible treasures as Bruce Lee memorabilia ($10,105), Michael Jackson mementos ($14,200), a “Michael Jackson and Eddie Van Halen” guitar for $4,000, and a Michael Jackson fedora, a bargain at $4,600…all with money donated to his political campaign. This is the caliber of mind and the considered priorities of the man entrusted by an Illinois congressional district to participate on their behalf in crucial decisions affecting jobs, the economy, and the course of the nation, while being consistently endorsed by our toadying news media.
Jackson is pathetic, but I do not blame him for his ridiculous conduct and stunning incompetence. I blame the irresponsible voters who elected him, and the millions like them who act as if running a country can be successfully accomplished with less study and attention than a typical 12-year-old devotes to a new videogame.
What substantive qualifications did Jesse Jackson, Jr. have for high elected office? None. He had a famous and accomplished father with a recognizable name, not that his father’s character is anything to write ballads about either. Jackson, Jr. was not an impressive scholar, and he never excelled at any job. He was wholly and completely pampered and carried through life by his rich and powerful father, until his name could be slapped on a ballot by a cynical Democratic Party that didn’t care about the caliber of candidate it offered the public, but only whether the candidate could win. Naturally, Jackson did win, just as so many other under-qualified candidates of dubious or non-existent credentials have in the process of being granted lazy passes to power by casually incompetent voters. His name sounded familiar, just as their names did: Mary Bono, Al Gore, George W, Bush, Ted Kennedy and all the second generation Kennedys, Rand Paul, and so many more. Over 40 current members of the Senate and the House are there primarily because their fathers or mothers served before them, usually better. Some are competent legislators, but that is more or less an accident, if true. Since 1921, over 50 women have been elected to the House or the Senate to succeed their dead husbands; their qualifications to run the nation consist of taking the marriage vows. Jesse Jackson. Jr.’s rise was just a variation on a theme.
Once these legacy selections have been ensconced in the halls of power, anything is possible. Jackson was an eight term Congressman! His constituents didn’t care whether he could do the job or not—they liked his name, they liked his father, they liked his party, they liked his color—eh, what the hell. He was elected by a landslide in 2012 despite being under investigation, despite having been unable to do his job for most of his term, and despite being mentally ill. Jackson’s public utterances were frequently incoherent or idiotic, but never mind: he was, we are told, considered prime material for Senator, Governor, even President. Once inflicted on the system by atrociously ill-informed and negligent voters, their inexcusable choices can do immeasurable harm, not the least of which is being incapable of or uninterested in governing effectively while being elevated through inertia to positions of greater and greater prestige and power.
The lesson of Jesse Jackson, Jr. is that the United States has become a democracy whose citizens refuse to take self-government seriously, and so have representatives in the highest offices in the land who treat them with the inattention, contempt, deceit and disrespect they deserve. Don’t blame Jackson, and don’t blame his father. Of all forms of government, democracy places the greatest demands on the public. It is becoming increasingly clear that the American public is no longer capable of meeting those demands, or particularly interested in doing so.
Source, Graphic: Washington Post