The Hill: 'What it means when Trump talks about 'corruption' '

November 2, 2016

Corruption — of a variety of people, institutions and government systems — has been a common theme throughout Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign. In his most recent contribution to The Hill, titled "What it means when Trump talks about 'corruption,' " Political Science Professor Robert Boatright draws upon two definitions of the word to analyze Trump's motivations for using the term and also looks at how other presidential candidates and politicians have used it throughout history. 

Here, an excerpt:

"Yet the plethora of targets suggests that there's something larger afoot. Is this just bluster from a candidate trailing in the polls? 

"There is a long history of debate among philosophers, political scientists and legal scholars about what, exactly, corruption is. They have concluded that there are essentially two ways to talk about corruption: As an inevitable process of decline or decay, in which a thing ceases to function in the way it should (as when computer files are corrupted); or as a prioritization of personal gain over the public good, as occurs when, for instance, a public official accepts bribes.

"The first is a big thing that can happen to entire societies, whether we are aware of it or not. The second is more of an individual failing.

"Trump's language seems mostly to be about corruption in the first sense, although he has not been hesitant to allege several corrupt acts in the second sense, hinting at secret deals among his opponents."