Corruption Is About Policy, Not Just Money

Back in 1998, iconic feminist Gloria Steinem wrote a now-infamous editorial defending then-President Bill Clinton, who multiple women had accused of sexual harassment, assault and even rape. Steinem argued that Clinton’s conduct wasn’t really sexual harassment, much less criminal conduct, and that in any case the accusations against Clinton were in a different category than those made against Republican politicians (who had been forced to resign). But Steinem’s bottom line was this: women — even (especially!) feminists — should overlook Clinton’s behavior because, unlike Republicans, he was a reliable defender of abortion.

Steinem later backpedaled a bit, during the height of the #MeToo movement. But there is nevertheless an important lesson in that story. To put it bluntly, an astonishing amount of corruption — if by that we mean complete abandonment of principles — will be overlooked, tolerated and even encouraged if it gets people what they want politically.

This is a bipartisan phenomenon to be sure, but we are seeing it in full force on the Left at the moment, as the extent of the corruption within the Biden administration (and its puppet master holdovers from the Obama administration) is finally being revealed.

Thus, they don’t want endless wars — unless the wars are taking place in countries funneling money to politicians they like and their families. They want to support the efforts of countries attempting to remain free of dictatorial overlords — unless the dictatorial overlords are funneling money to politicians they like and their families.

Bribes from foreign nations? Who cares? Weaponization of the federal government? No big deal. Selective enforcement of the law and dual standards of justice? Meh. Crafting a fictitious “collusion” narrative to take out a political opponent (and then a president), and spending tens of millions of taxpayers’ dollars for a fraudulent investigation? Whatever. Lying to Congress? Yawn. Censoring scientists, experts and even journalists who have information that contradicts deceptive propaganda? Sure. Stuffing ballot boxes with votes that may or may not be legal? You’d better believe it.

Americans understandably feel betrayed by those who ignore the corruption when they should be calling it out — like feminists who look the other way at serial abusers, free speech enthusiasts who now cheer for censorious authoritarians, or journalists who lose interest in telling the public the truth.

What’s behind these abrupt changes of position is not so much money as it is policy.

Like Gloria Steinem in 1998, today’s turncoats think ignoring the corruption of the Biden family and the lawlessness of his administration will aid those working behind the scenes to get the policies they want: destruction of the fossil fuel industries; the elimination of cars, private property, and sprawling suburbs of single-family housing in favor of public transportation and multifamily high-rises in “15-minute cities”; criminalization of gun ownership; confiscatory taxation and wealth redistribution; defunding police departments; the imposition of critical race theory and gender indoctrination in the educational system; taxpayer-funded abortion on demand; “free” universal health care and higher education, just to name a few.

So convinced are they that these policies will be the salvation of the nation, if not the planet, that any lengths taken to achieve those ends are worth it. Even if it means shredding principles they once held dear.

Indeed, the abandonment of core principles is what’s behind the stunning political reversals of highly visible liberals like authors Michael Shellenberger, Dave Rubin, David Horowitz and Naomi Wolf, journalists Glenn Greenwald, Matt Taibbi and Bari Weiss, actors Tim Robbins and Russell Brand, and academics Bret Weinstein and his wife Heather Heying.

To use academia as an example, it would be expected that a professor with left-wing political leanings would support policies that aid the environment. (I submit that concern for the environment is not limited to the political left, but that is an argument for another day.)

Historically, at least, one could expect such a person to be equally dedicated to the integrity of the process of scientific inquiry, including the pursuit of truth, rigorous research and quality scholarship.

But what happens when one’s fellow travelers in the “environmental concern” space start attacking the research of other academics whose legitimate findings contradict the preferred narrative — say, around fossil fuels, or the reliability of “renewable” energy courses, or the benefits of electric vehicles? What happens when those attacks are not limited to challenging the findings, but trying to prevent the work from being published altogether? Threatening the editorial staff of the peer reviewed journals that print the work? Trying to get people attacked on social media, “canceled” or even fired? Does commitment to a clean environment justify the abandonment of standards of conduct in academic research?

Now consider that this same phenomenon is taking place in other areas where there were once agreed-upon values: Freedom of speech. Protection of the civil liberties of minorities and women. Safety of children. Election integrity. Accountability in government. Fair and equal justice. Truth in public health.

It’s not that self-described liberals have become conservative. But they are finding common cause with conservatives and others who understand that principles must come before policy. When they do not, the corruption that follows corrodes everything in its path.

When the news is filled with headlines about bribes and kickbacks, it’s easy to think that the dangers of corruption come primarily from the greedy or those with an insatiable lust for money. But they’re just tools.

The real threats come from the ideologues; the “true believers”; those who rationalize the abandonment of principles and the aggregation of power because doing so is necessary to achieve what they believe is “the greater good.”

History shows that that kind of corruption — the heady combination of money and power plus self-righteous egotism — is the most destructive, the most lethal and the most difficult to eradicate.

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Laura Hollis

Laura Hirschfeld Hollis is a native of Champaign, Illinois. She received her undergraduate degree in English and her law degree from the University of Notre Dame. Hollis' career as an attorney has spanned 28 years, the past 23 of which have been in higher education. She has taught law at the graduate and undergraduate levels, and has nearly 15 years' experience in the development and delivery of entrepreneurship courses, seminars and workshops for multiple audiences. Her scholarly interests include entrepreneurship and public policy, economic development, technology commercialization and general business law. In addition to her legal publications, Hollis has been a freelance political writer since 1993, writing for The Detroit News, HOUR Detroit magazine, and the Christian Post, on matters of politics and culture. She is a frequent public speaker. Hollis has received numerous awards for her teaching, research, community service and contributions to entrepreneurship education. She is married to Jess Hollis, a musician, voiceover artist and audio engineer, and they live in Indiana with their two children, Alistair and Celeste.

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