We’ve all learned to be rightly skeptical of Bush Justice Department prosecutions of Democratic officials, but US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald doesn’t exactly have a reputation as a partisan hack, so it’s hard to dismiss this morning’s indictment and arrest of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich as mere politics as usual.
Assuming the allegations against Blagojevich are supported by the facts, I say good riddance. Same goes for recently defeated Rep. William “Money in My Freezer” Jefferson (D-LA), who if he really loved his party and his nation would have resigned from Congress long ago, rather than bringing disgrace on the institution, and handing his seat over to an unknown Republican through sheer hubris.
Institutional and individual corruption, and the perceived tolerance of it, was at the heart of the Democrats’ historic defeat in 1994, and the Republican sequel in 2006, and my party would do well to learn a lesson from history. Our numbers may be lessened by the fall of the likes of Blagojevich and Jefferson, but we are stronger without them, and we should resist the natural urge to defend our own when our own have violated the public trust.
Of course, not every allegation is substantiated, and not every scandal or ethical lapse is a criminal (or even a fireable) offense, so the line between corruption and mere bad judgment is not always clear. But if the Democrats want to govern, and govern effectively, we should be prepared to err on the side of ethics over loyalty.