The Dishonesty of Government

Yesterday, I received a message from the Rev. Kristin Stoneking, the Executive Director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), the nation's oldest interfaith peace organization. Stoneking and members of FOR had just met with House Speaker Paul Ryan.

The purpose of their meeting was to encourage Speaker Ryan to speak out against the hate language of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump. They wanted him to stand up, publicly, and denounce the Islamophobia that is being spewed by Trump and to promote tolerance of refugees. (

The meeting apparently went well, with Ryan promising Stoneking and Anthony Grimes, who is the Director of Campaigns and Strategy for FOR ,that he would speak out against anti-Muslim rhetoric and would visit the Muslim Community Center and Masjid in his hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin. The representatives of FOR were encouraged.

But hours after that meeting, Ryan went on record to endorse Trump. For the FOR reps, it felt like a slap in the face, a mockery of what had just transpired. Members of the Muslim community were also in that meeting and received the affirmation and assurance from Ryan that he understood their struggle as Muslims in this country, at this time. They all left gratified and encouraged, but felt the floor fall from under their feet as they listened to Ryan endorse Trump.

Grimes was vocal about the disappointment he and the others felt. He said Ryan's endorsement would be disappointing to many and said that "actions must match words."

Ryan's endorsement of Trump was indeed troubling. For a while, it seemed like Ryan had the courage to stand up against Trump, who bullies and sullies anyone who criticizes him and comes against him. It was gratifying to see Ryan stand in his own shoes, the political risk for himself he was creating notwithstanding.

But at the end, politics won, politics, which shapes all government. Trump and Sanders are right when they say government is corrupt, but it is the politics which drives the process of getting people into office which makes government corrupt. At the end of the day, it is not the hearts and needs of the people which is centrally important to politics and politicians; it is the drive for power. In the quest for power, most politicians will say and do almost anything.

Plato wrote in his work, The Republic, that democracy is a system which is doomed to fail. He describes several stages of government which are "intolerable yet unavoidable." A crucial theme of his analysis of democracy is that ultimately, it does not work; it will fail. He says that in spite of the high ideal of a democracy, where everyone has, at least theoretically, equal power because everyone can vote, that ideal is fleeting at best. In time, he said, the gap between rich and poor will increase, with the rich reaching for and having the power to, claim the power. Democracy, he believed, leads to subjugation and tyranny. ( as the government moves toward tyranny, the people panic, they give in to fear; their anger becomes palpable, and they are likely to unite behind an individual who will bring justice, freedom and liberty to the masses.

That is what is happening in America right now. For both Republicans and Democrats, there is a broad swath of people who see the demise of democracy and they are crying out for what they believe this country is supposed to be about. (That is the substance for another article). It does not matter to the people who want Trump what he says about Muslims; they are afraid, they have little money and fewer jobs. They believe that "outsiders" are stealing their country away from them and they believe Trump (or Sanders, for the Democrats) can balance the scales again, make things like they "used to be."

Ryan's reluctance to endorse Trump up until now was a breath of fresh air. As the masses rally around what ultimately will be an artificial "savior" with artificial, if even possible, "solutions," it was good, encouraging to see a Republican stand up to Trump, who has clearly bullied nearly everyone into supporting him.

But at the end of the day, it was politics, corrupt politics which leads to corrupt government, which won out. God only knows what Trump said to Ryan to get him to publicly endorse him, but whatever it was, it made Ryan seem disingenuous and detached from the "American people" which includes Muslims, blacks, Mexicans and so many others. Ryan showed himself to be merely a politician, not a person called to serve people. It seems that he will, as most politicians do, serve himself, and let the people eat cake.

If this American democracy is in its end-stages, as some have said, the actions of politicians like Trump, certainly, but more disappointingly like Ryan, is speeding the train toward its last stop.