“A political machine has run government as its own kingdom for 50 years. It’s time for a change.”
Answering a 1996 candidate questionnaire for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, these were the words of John Finnegan, Republican candidate for Madison County Auditor.
His opponent: Fred Bathon.
First elected in his twenties to public office, Bathon was just 41 at the time and vying for his third term as auditor. Like all Madison County Democrats that year, he’d win handily with 64% of the vote.
We all know how this worked out. Bathon rose to county treasurer, where he used his position to scam taxpayers and help Kingdom supporters-- his supporters. He went to jail.
But the Kingdom reigns on, driven by palpable fear and blind loyalty.
That’s fear, as in you always threaten any opponent or potential opponent of the Kingdom.
Think of Bathon’s son punching a local funeral home director in the face because he wouldn’t put up a sign promoting his father. Support us, or we’ll hurt you. That’s how the Kingdom keeps a hold on power.
And that’s loyalty, as in supporters are expected to always defend the Kingdom and its leadership, no matter what it is accused of doing.
Supporters are afraid, too, of the government job and pension they will lose by speaking the truth. But they won’t admit it.
Think of Madison County Board member Kelly Tracy, who you would think would be embarrassed by fellow Democrat Bathon. Embarrassed that her fellow Democrats watched idly for years while he scammed taxpayers. Embarrassed that county prosecutors couldn’t be trusted to handle the case because they, too, were Democrats.
But Tracy isn’t embarrassed. She’s just blindly loyal, incapable of offering any criticism of a fellow Democrat, no matter how bad the transgression.
Officials like Tracy expose the real tragedy of Fred Bathon’s criminal behavior. Most elected Madison County officials prefer a Kingdom to Democracy, and they aren’t afraid to admit it.