As we watch the Brazilian impeachment proceedings -- if you missed it, the lower house voted for impeachment by a larger-than-expected margin -- it's interesting to note how similar the South American nation looks to the evolving United States model. The Washington Post has decided to name the sides "pro-government" and "pro-impeachment," although the impeachment is being voted by a part of the government. In a way, their naming convention makes sense. On the one side, there are those for whom government is something they want more of in their lives. They are, as here, mostly ethnic and racial minorities -- plus women, who are disproportionately likely to think of the government as an engine for voting themselves benefits that will ease their lives.
On the other side are people for whom the real issue is that the government is totally corrupt. For them, and they like here are mostly white, the real issue with the government is trying to get it to stop engaging in a benefits-and-patronage racket. They think that impeachment is important as part of a reform process, with the hope of crafting a new government that does less but more lawfully. Of course they are the ones, their opponents would point out, for whom the system tends to work.
I was left thinking of the interview Bernie Sanders recently gave in which the journalists asked him if he wasn't making Donald Trump's argument by pointing out that Hillary Clinton has accepted all this oil money. No, he said, he is complaining that the system is corrupt. If that makes Clinton corrupt, then almost every politician in America is corrupt.
Just as in Brazil. And just as in Brazil, for many -- Clinton's faithful legions of voters -- that fact is wholly beside the point. Corruption is just another way of transferring benefits and graft to supporters. Who cares if it's done through legal means or shady ones? What matters is that the benefits flow.