I found John Nichols lecture on Socialism in America to be extremely interesting. One point that interested me that Nichols brought up was his thoughts on ideas in this country. When he said, “Washington is where good ideas go to die”, I was kind of taken aback by it. But then, I thought about it and it’s really (sadly) the case. One reason for this he argued is because of the fact that we ignore good ideas sometimes because of fear. He said that borrowing ideas from different ideologies is a good thing, almost necessary, but no one will do it because if you borrow a good socialist idea, then you must be a socialist! A good idea, in politics anyway, is never just looked at as a good idea. He argued that mere associations with these ideas don’t make a person part of the group necessarily. Something I found interesting regarding this was his example that dealt with Abraham Lincoln. I learned that during his presidency, his White House aide had also been Karl Marx’s editor. His (Lincoln’s) association with her doesn’t make him communist. If the nation wants to progress, which it obviously does, we have to be able to at least discuss different ideas of different ideologies.
Another reason for Washington being the place where good ideas go to die is the fact that politics are so drastically tainted by money. Money and the media drive politics, and those two things are partially responsible for pushing good ideas away. He discussed how corporations and wealthy individuals ultimately control the government, and this too pushes good ideas away. I read the book The Corporation earlier this semester, and after reading it I relate a lot of things I hear back to the book, this lecture being one of those things. It’s definitely true that corporations and money sway the government heavily in general, which Bakan discusses in The Corporation. I loved when Nichols said, “politics is marinated in money” and that no matter what you do, every time you take a bite of politics there’s always the taste of money. I thought that analogy was not only interesting but also extremely accurate, and that’s what Bakan was saying in his book.
Overall I’m glad I attended this lecture. John Nichols was a great speaker and his enthusiasm on the topic made it enjoyable to sit and listen to him speak. It was, for lack of a better word, cool to be able to make connections from what he was saying to books I’ve read and to things we’ve discussed in class.