News media portray today’s politics as incomparably corrupt, focusing on endless scandals to tarnish politicians in general and the Trump administration in particular.
But in historical perspective, corruption is far less rampant than in the past: prominent officials in the Johnson, Nixon and Reagan administrations faced criminal prosecution and a hundred years ago political bosses at every level enriched themselves with public money.
Around the world, top leaders in Brazil, France, Israel, South Africa and many other countries faced criminal charges for abusing public office; in lists of “most corrupt governments,” the US never scores among the worst. But media here love to dwell on scandal because it’s lurid and dramatic, and also mislead the public with acclaimed entertainment series like “House of Cards,” “Scandal” and “Veep.”
The reality of our politics today is less exciting, but it’s also far less sordid.