Can the swamp drain itself?

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Illustration by Chloe Kendall

With the revolving door of pundits and figures who are metaphorically shooting themselves in the foot, I have to wonder—can the swamp drain itself?

“Drain the swamp”—a political term making the rounds the past couple of years—has been used since the early 20th century, but has become a lot more popular—or infamous—recently as a political soundbite used by Donald Trump, his supporters and his critics. “Drain the swamp” initially described ethical reform, getting rid of lobbyists in politics and removing amoral politicians, but it’s now become popularized as a metaphor for getting rid of corruption.

Regarding whether or not Trump is actually draining this metaphorical swamp, it doesn’t look like it from where I’m standing. That being said, all this talk does make me wonder whether a place full of corruption—be it a media conglomerate or political group—could end up possibly draining its own swamp.

Looking at Fox News as a study sample, it seems almost possible when the right amount of pressure is applied. Controversies swarming around Fox News CEO Roger Ailes finally caught up with him when sexual harassment allegations came to the forefront, but what broke the camel’s back was the sexual allegations surrounding Bill O’Reilly that sparked fierce backlash and resulted in him getting ousted. These two instances are only the beginning of other fires within Fox. Pundit Jesse Watters recently made lewd comments about Ivanka Trump, resulting in him taking a week-long “vacation,” while a lawsuit regarding racial discrimination and harassment at Fox started gaining traction again in late April. More recently, Fox News gave Co-president Bill Shine the boot, prompting Sean Hannity to briefly threaten to leave the network.

All these changes and shakeups definitely inspire the idea that Fox News’ own personal swamp could end up draining itself, but I wouldn’t be so confident about that. In the end, many of those leaving the network have gotten nice, fat checks while their replacements have ended up being more of the same. Also, don’t forget that Bill O’Reilly didn’t really get kicked out of the club until advertisers started feeling the pressure and began abandoning The O’Reilly Factor. Much like in the case of conservative speaker Tomi Lahren, it wasn’t the rhetoric or backlash as much as it was the company image and the money.

For a while, optimists thought something similar to what’s happening at Fox could happen to Trump’s cabinet. Thanks to the cabinet’s love of bending the truth (to put it lightly), the weird power plays, and its unusual ties to Russia, these speculations weren’t unfounded. Michael Flynn’s resignation, Steve Bannon’s demotion, the backlash against Sean Spicer’s Hitler comment, and Kellyanne Conway’s infamous fake Bowling Green Massacre definitely made it look like the swampy cabinet could start draining itself. Unfortunately, much like Fox, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Spicer, Bannon, and Conway are all still around, and recently it was reported that both Bannon and President Trump “personally intervened” to keep the controversial Seb Gorka as a deputy assistant to the president. Lastly, if people in power truly cared about sexual allegations, perhaps the man who bragged about being able to “grab [women] by the pussy” wouldn’t be president.

Ultimately, the swamp isn’t going to drain itself, especially not when the image or monetary gain of those in positions of power aren’t at stake. However, when we apply pressure and work fiercely to keep those in power and their support systems accountable, we have a better chance of exposing the swamp-like ones for the disgraceful—or rather, deplorable—people that they are. While a swamp can start leaking by itself, the people are almost always going to be the ones who have to work to help pull that plug.

If you would like to help keep people in power accountable, there are plenty of groups and organizations that need your help and support. Please consider following institutions:

https://www.aclu.org
https://www.amnesty.org/en/
http://fair.org
https://cpj.org

 

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