Ask yourself three questions.
Why is so much wrong with our politics? What have I done to make things better? What would it take to change the way things are?
I raise these because of the ongoing rot and abuse in the city and state. And because, judging by my emails and phone calls, so many ordinary folks are angry, frustrated, seeking answers.
Why now? Look at last week.
Here's a sample of the many emails I got in reaction to the week's events.
Norma: "I am overwhelmed with outrage at the total indifference to constituents."
Scott: "It is really shameful behavior and will continue unchecked until Pennsylvanians wake up."
Maria: "Pennsylvania is so corrupt. Everywhere is so corrupt. Now our DA. … Everybody is so sick of this."
So why is there so much wrong with our politics?
Because too few people pay attention, care, or vote, which allows officials and institutions to do what they want for as long as they want or until they get caught.
Because people are flawed. Because power feeds flaws. Because in systems with little accountability, power gets used for personal gain rather than public good.
(Do your own list of examples. Mine's way too long and depressing.)
What have you done to make things better?
Only you can answer, but I suspect mostly complain or disengage, shrug and say they're all like that.
What would it take to change things?
It would take a sustained, multi-year effort (this didn't happen overnight) by reform groups, average citizens, and however many elected officials are willing to do the right thing and aggressively alter fundamentals.
End gerrymandering and unlimited campaign funding, make voting easier, allow open primaries, encourage independent runs, build a semblance of a GOP in Philly, stop automatic raises to lawmakers, stop paying them during budget impasses, enact term limits, cut the legislature's size, lower thresholds for removal from office, end deals allowing felons to keep public pensions, etc., etc.
And even if all or some of this could be accomplished, it would only be the start of uprooting a system we've allowed to thrive for far too long.
H.L. Mencken wrote, "I believe that all government is evil and trying to improve it is largely a waste of time."
Well, I believe there are enough good people in and out of office who want a functioning democracy, competitive elections and a pathway to public trust.
My three questions?
One: When will political and civic leaders stand together in citywide/statewide efforts and say enough is enough?