Do Americans Care About Corruption?

We usually imagine that democratic accountability serves an important anticorruption function: since voters presumably do not approve of corruption, a benefit of democracy is the ability to give untrustworthy pols the boot. Yet in a recent op-ed in the Washington Post, Hilary Krieger provocatively claims that American voters don’t really care if a politician engages in corrupt acts, so long as “a political leader has otherwise furthered the public good.” In addition to this descriptive claim, she also makes the normative argument that Americans voters are right not to reflexively vote out politicians tainted by corruption.

Although both her descriptive and normative claims have some truth to them–elections are multi-faceted, and corruption is not the end-all-be-all issue–both the descriptive and normative arguments have serious flaws.

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