While I can't account for the devolution of the word 'liberal,' I would like to propose a new L word that should be stuck like superglue to the Republican pseudo-leaders: Loophole. While it is safe to say that all politicians have taken money from some lobbies at one time or another, it is only under the more recent Republican leadership that the actual lawmaking function has been taken over by the lobby industry. The Republicans have shown themselves to be masters of the Loophole.
Just today (1-27-06), the Washington Post reported that "Since the Republicans took control of Congress in 1994, the number of home-district earmarks jumped from 4,155 valued at about $29 billion in 1994 to 14,211 worth nearly $53 billion 10 years later, according to the Congressional Research Service."
Lobbyists don't dole out money just to have lunch with the President. Lobbyists pay for Loopholes. From the day W took office, the lobbyists landed like lemmings on capital hill poised to remove the teeth from any legislation that might clip their wings. Their checks for laissez-faire knocked the system out of balance by adding Loopholes in last minute riders and amendments. These little multi-faceted gems of legalese often sailed through a Congress in which a crippled minority settled for less and less as they spent more and more of their time defending phantom charges of the L word.
The New(t) Republicans turned the lobbying industry from an information gathering advocacy campaign to a clever self-proclaimed marketing and advertising campaign that made gospel out of conservative dogma and dog meat out of anything labeled liberal. As the floodgates opened, lobbyists swimming in cash breached the weakened levees of Congress. The Democrats were too afraid to stand and deliver, but the Republicans had no trouble with divide and conquer. And they did. The multi-pronged strategy included sweeping attacks on all opponents, massive lobbying that infiltrated executive and congressional staffs where fancy knots were tied around any legislation they didn't like, and a sweeping PR program that used Orwellian language to unapologetically win the hearts and minds of the public.
At every fork, the Democrats found themselves struggling for breath in a pool of dirty politics where they were told to either swim with the sharks or sink. The conservative infrastructure was already in place: prefabricated walls dead-ended any legislation not on the New Republican agenda. Instead of yelling "everyone out of the water," the Democrats held their noses and jumped. Their cries of "compromise" as they landed in the muck made no splash in the media. No surprise. That road block was being erected even before W was elected. The media moguls were already at the feeding trough, consolidating their own power base by trading shares behind the scenes.
In the New Republican paradigm, the very people who are charged with making the laws are working hard to make sure they can never be charged with breaking the laws. The last five years have set the record for riders and amendments that are slipped through Congress without discussion or comment. Like Nixon's midnight raids on the DNC designed to obliterate the enemy, the Republican midnight raids on legislation serve the same cause. The plumbers inserted wires to extract info; the contractors insert loopholes to ensure power and enduring dominance. The Contract with America has turned out to be a sweetheart deal in which the illegal is made legal and the New Republicans keep their friends in the money and their opponents in a marginalized minority.
The model for loopholes is embodied in Enron's Kenny Boy Lay, W's pal and Enron exec who may walk away laughing all the way to the bank. The Enron execs morphed into lobbyists and inner White House executives, trading jobs as seamlessly as houses are swapped on Trading Places. While their public posturing has been full of positive spin, privately they have been waging a pre-emptive war on the law as we know it, buying the best of legal linguistics. Enron is merely a more public example of what passes for everyday behind-the-scenes politics.
And we haven't even begun to unravel the thieves of Baghdad who literally stole billions out of Iraq, where the loophole lies between American and Iraqi jurisdiction. In both cases, the culprits cashed out ducking through the knotted maze of legal limbo. Talk of reform is useless without a systemic purge. The new campaign slogan for reform should be: We don't do Loopholes.
Our law and order President and his gang have crafted their own laws and orders that supercede not only our notion of law but what we know to be right and wrong. The public shock and awe hasn't set in yet. Let's hope that when it does, it won't be too late to turn the tide.