But the generation of soldiers who came home from World War II were, increasingly, just not OK with this, and the generation after them even less so. They didn't bother to run as Republicans, because America was still not going to elect enough Republicans to matter. Instead, they formed their own caucus within the Democratic Party, the Reform Democrats, and through a campaign of relentless muck-raking and with assistance from an eager press, they steadily gained in power. By the late 1950s, the Mafia was under siege in every state and city, and by around 1970 the era of Mafia rule, and institutionalized corruption, was pretty much over. The "Good Government" wing of the Reform Democrats (or as they're still derisively nicknamed, the "goo-goos") even managed to institutionalize and legislate an awful lot of controls over previously corrupt practices, especially in awarding of government contracts. They also managed to identify an awful lot of jobs that really had no business being treated as patronage perqs and strengthened civil service protection for those jobs, thereby professionalizing an awful lot of our various levels of government.
But here's the thing ... they appear to have done all of those things without the Republican Party noticing. Or perhaps, without the Republican Party believing them, but it amounts to the same thing. This semi-willful blindness is doubtless further enabled by the fact that to an awful lot of the intellectuals of the Republican Party, it's still 1964. Atheism is still seen as a global threat, communism is still thought of as something that must be vigorously contained and fought on every continent, all government regulation is seen not as a way to police fair playing fields for business but as the thin entering wedge of a socialist takeover of America, and the fiction of Ayn Rand is still taken for granted as a viable philosophical construct. So for people that are emotionally trapped like flies in amber in the time when their movement first organized, first began its strategy to make the Republican Party a winning party, it's only natural that they would assume that the culture of political corruption that was widespread in 1964 would still be ubiquitous.
I'm convinced that's why when you catch guys like Tom Delay, or Jack Abramoff, or various Republican-connected fly-by-night "defense contractors," or most recently Kentucky governor Ernie Fletcher, engaged in blatant corruption, they show no shame. They truly believe what they're saying when they claim that everybody, and they mean everybody, does it. They take it for granted that now that America is as single-party Republican as it was single-party Democrat in 1940, that they're entitled to the same level of graft that the Democrats were getting away with in 1940. Why? Because they hardly ever hear of any Democrat having been caught and punished for it any time in the last 20 or 30 years. Since they can't believe that the "goo-goos" and the crusading journalists actually achieved anything, it is to them self-evident that the only reason that more Democrats aren't facing the kind of corruption charges that they are is that beat reporters and professional civil servants vote Democrat. It would never occur to them that the reason we react to someone like William Jefferson with such disgust is that he's such an anachronism, that we're actually ashamed of our corrupt politicians rather than flocking to protect them, because we got used to more-or-less honest government. Which is why, to a man, they all cry "partisan witch-hunt." Because they haven't actually gotten it into their heads that no, really, it pretty much is only them.
P.S. Tuesday afternoon, NetDevil and NCsoft shipped a major upgrade to Auto Assault, making what was already the coolest science-fiction massively multiplayer online roleplaying game even cooler, even more fun to play. Don't be too surprised if I'm unusually distractable for a little while. Sorry!