Now that polls have started to stabilize, some observers on the Left wonder why the race seems to be as close as it is. Albert Hunt writes at Bloomberg that Hillary Clinton’s margin at the moment shouldn’t have liberals breathing easy — it should have them scratching their heads. With the head start given her by Donald Trump, Hillary should be crushing him. Instead, her own inept handling of trust issues keeps the Republican nominee in range of the lead:

Hillary Clinton enjoys about a five-point polling lead over Donald Trump. One way to look at this is that it’s a margin, at this stage of a presidential race, that is rarely reversed.

Here’s another way. The Democrats had a successful convention, the Republicans didn’t. Clinton’s campaign has been smooth; Trump’s has careened between disasters. She has reached out to independents and Republicans; he has insulted the family of a soldier killed in Iraq, along with people with disabilities, Latinos and women. Clinton has outspent him 3 to 1.

And she’s only ahead by five percentage points. …

Some of it reflects the polarization of American politics. But there also have been self-inflicted wounds that accentuate her struggle to win voters’ trust: the continuing controversy over her use of private e-mail while secretary of state and potential conflicts involving the Clinton Foundation.

Hunt argues that Hillary has bungled the response on these issues more than he thinks the issues themselves are substantive. He offers a “some say” construct to take a passive-aggressive swipe at James Comey for making any comment at all about Hillary’s e-mail scandal, while later in the same essay quotes Comey’s declaration that no prosecutor would take the case to dismiss the scandal. The Clinton Foundation’s financial ties to foreign governments only “create[] an impression that favors are being traded,” even though those governments suddenly did a lot better on arms sales, among other benefits of CF donor status.

And so on. The “right-wingers … will find something” no matter how honest and forthright the Clintons are, Hunt argues, but that’s no reason to keep feeding the fire. And rather than draw the obvious conclusion from the Clintons’ refusal to cut ties completely with the foundation and foreign governments if Hillary wins the election, Hunt implies that it’s only objectionable in that it gives her opponents “ammunition” against her. At least Hunt acknowledges that there’s some sort of problem with Hillary, even while avoiding the true glaring problem of corruption.

Glenn Reynolds provides a clearer picture of the pay-for-play nexus between Hillary’s State Department and the Clinton Foundation:

Back in July, Democratic presidential nominee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “there is absolutely no connection between anything that I did as secretary of state and the Clinton Foundation.”

On Monday of this week, ABC’s Liz Kreutzer reminded people of that statement, as a new batch of emails reveal that there was a connection, and it was cash. As the emails, recovered by the public-interest law firm Judicial Watch, demonstrate, people who made donations to the Clinton Foundation got preferential treatment, and access, at the State Department when Hillary was Secretary of State …

Call logs show that Hillary’s chief of staff at the State Department was in constant contact with the Clinton Foundation, talking about “sensitive” meetings and State Department business.

Will this cost Hillary the election? In previous cycles, it would; against any other candidate in this cycle, it might. But as I argue in my column at The Fiscal Times, that assumes that we still have an electorate with a moral compass — and the results of the primaries strongly suggest otherwise:

In the classic film The Fall of the Roman Empire, filmmakers depicted the inflection point of the decline after the death of Marcus Aurelius, the last of the “good emperors.” In the fictional account, Livius fights Commodus to the death in an attempt to rescue the empire from its corruption. By the time he does, though, he realizes there’s nothing left to save. As he walks away from power, others begin openly bidding to seize the mantle. “One million denarii for the throne of Rome!” yells one, followed by “two million denarii!” from another, and so on.

“This was the beginning of the fall of the Roman Empire,” the narrator intones gravely as the camera pulls out to a wide shot. “A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.” …

Expect more revelations to flow out of the e-mails and Clinton Foundation records. Just don’t expect it to make much of a difference. Questions have been raised about connections between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department for years. Hillary Clinton’s attempt to circumvent legitimate Congressional and judicial oversight of State Department operations by hiding communications in an unauthorized and non-secure e-mail system is a brazen corruption of constitutional authority, and yet it hardly put a dent in her race to the nomination.

We have moved beyond character and morals in American society to an entirely transactional kind of politics. Not only do people no longer value character and integrity, but we have also become almost hostile to the proposition that they matter at all. If those values still mattered to American voters, we would not have the two least-favorable candidates in either party as nominees for the presidency.

The Romans who begin bidding for the throne at the end of The Fall of the Roman Empire would recognize this new cultural environment. When character and integrity no longer matter, Mike Royko’s suggested motto* for Chicago of ubi est mea is the only standard that applies: Where’s mine?

Hillary’s corruption and dishonesty might be an albatross. Just don’t expect it to be a millstone.

* – Hat tip to my very good friend Andrew Malcolm for this reference.