Washington public-relations and lobbying firms have begun to accept clients and staff from either party and from any point on the political spectrum, overcoming their former one-party only tradition. The newest example of this trend is the firm of Powell and Tate, the first half being Jody Powell, former press secretary to then-President Jimmy Garter, and the latter being Sheila Tate, who at one time held the same position for President Bush. This is only the most blatant example; all over the Beltway, the firms that help lower the level of political debate of our nation to the level of beer commercials are now sloughing off their old loyalties and accepting business from all comers.

There are two reasons given for this new trend. The more important reason is simple old-fashioned political greed: the public-relations firms want contacts in both parties. Ed Rollins, a former GOP bigwig who has been hired by the formerly solidly Democratic firm of Sawyer-Miller, puts it this way: “To succeed in this business you have to have ties to both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.” Rollins did not need to elaborate on the meaning of success in this business, but it is all too clear that by it he means something quite different from success as defined by the average American voter, who still assumes that a successful politician is one who helps his country.

The other rationale provided by these firms for their new policy is to better aid their clients’ attempt to pass whatever bit of legislation has caught their fancy. “Legislation these days is neither purely Republican nor Democratic,” Rollins explains. Instead, “it reflects a combination of interests.” The nature of the legislation to be passed does not seem to enter the picture, nor does anyone seem to consider that the only interests being furthered in this arrangement are those of the public-relations firms themselves, and the hordes of lobbyists who create the “interests” that their clients pursue.

Indeed, to hear the lobbyists tell it, “public relations” seems a misnomer, for the public, except at election time, hardly matters at all. These firms are too expensive for the politicians to use them for the mere purpose of influencing the common voter. No, they employ their services for a different purpose: to influence other politicians. The present officeholders no longer have enough confidence in their beliefs (such as they are) to feel that they alone could influence others of their number. In place of the great statesmen of the past who once graced the halls of Congress, there are now only lobbyists, whose screeching and cackling resound in the chamber where once Webster and Clay spoke. Rather than intelligent discourse, we now are greeted with the picture of a congressman with a lobbyist at each ear; whoever can echo the loudest in the cavern before him dictates the vote.

Albert Jay Nock once described an election as a situation wherein one party was in office and wanted to stay in, and the other was out and wished to be in. In American politics today, the difference between the parties is negligible, for in our increasingly “unpartisan” political atmosphere, the same entities are running both sides of the debate; the only loser is the electorate.