You could see the political salience of corruption in the last two elections. In 2016, it was a main theme (along with xenophobia) in Trump’s ads. In 2018, Democrats used an anti-corruption message in their successful push to retake the House. As Caitlin Huey-Burns wrote in RealClearPolitics, Democrats’ promise to clean up “a culture of corruption” was part of “their broader economic message that administration policies benefit the wealthy and corporations more than average Americans.”
Why has corruption become such a big issue in voters’ minds? The main reason is economic. Most Americans are struggling with slow-growing incomes and stagnant net worth — while the affluent continue to do very well. Americans have come to think government is corrupt because the economy’s outcomes look decidedly corrupt.
This concern has created political opportunities. Anti-corruption and pro-democracy measures have passed in red states like Missouri, purple states like Colorado and Michigan and blue states like California. (Unfortunately, Republican politicians in a few of these states have since tried to overturn the measures.)