Anthony Weiner is back at it--running for the democratic nomination for Mayor of New York City. And he has a substantial campaign war chest, a wife derived from his Hillary connection, who pregnant during Weiner's online sex scandal, has stuck by him, and a slate of progressive suggestions that includes a Medicare-for-All insurance program for New Yorkers. And a lot of chutzpah and even more ambition. But then former Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina just got elected to Congress, beating a woman democrat in South Carolina, Stephen Colbert's sister. And he got away with multiple absences from the South Carolina Governor's mansion--incommunicados--later tacked with the euphemism 'hiking the Appalachian trail'--on official time playing with his Argentine mistress, lied repeatedly, and is up on trespass charges at his ex-wife's house. All the while, he was blasting democrats with 'family values' laden moralisms--from up on his high and virtuous pulpit. This should inspire Weiner's hopes for a comeback. After all, he did nothing criminal.
I wrote about Weiner and others of his ilk at the time of the scandal (Keeping it in Your Pants--Literally and Virtually--The Weiner Fiasco and Others of a Related Ilk--Tikkun online). Clearly he was delusional on several levels--wanting to do what he did in the first place, writing to women who would expose him, believing they wouldn't as he was plied for more pictures and identification--which he willingly gave. And most of all, thinking that he could do this, get away with it, and no one would be the wiser. He could have his fun without blemish or revelation. As I said then: What was he thinking?
Now his apparent delusion is that he can have political redemption effortlessly--without a process of true sharing of his mind and behavior; that he has suffered sufficiently for voters to trust him with their city--for them to believe that his character, his real nature, is reliable, honest and in touch with reality.
And goodness knows, it is possible that he will convince many, perhaps even get elected. After all, there are so many models available for this. Think of Silvio Berlusconi who pays off his party hooker girls personally with fat envelopes, who is unabashedly immoral, corrupt, power hungry and lascivious. How about our own boy Bill, who comes back from a humiliation that trumped his presidency, the worst ever defense of a minor personal issue--yes, he should not have done it--played it as badly as anyone could, and is now our master statesman, making many millions on the talk show circuit, somehow respected when he gave us George Bush on a platter. Elliot Spitzer got away with it--he's making a bundle in so many ways--a respected news commentator now. Every time I come across him I see big bucks for hookers.
Nor do I wish to tar them equally with the same charges. In a society in which divorce rates are approaching 50%, relationship breakages and affairs will occur amongst those seeking public office, probably even more frequently than in the general population. What do we really need to know of the private lives of those wanting to hold public office? What are the peccadilloes and what are unacceptable behaviors? For example, in this new information age, do we want to know which of our officials is watching Internet porn? Perhaps, if their distraction is so addictive and severe that it makes for dereliction of duty? But why else? I couldn't care less. Until the playing field is leveled for women, male excesses will break into the news as frequent scandal. Women thus far do less of this--and are less visible. Clearly, the line between personal privacy and having information on a politician's character and quirks has moved as information, curiosity and the search for lurid material burgeon. If we knew JFK was a sex-crazed male nymphomaniac would he have gotten our vote? Now, we have so few secrets--and far more manipulation of what are the important truths of our times.
There is a difference between being stupid like Weiner, and stealing public funds, lying under oath, violating the tenets of office, cronyism, immorality and criminality. In our scheme of not viewing crime and punishment equally, a guy who steals hundreds of thousands of dollars of campaign funds fares so much better than the unarmed bank robber, and the guy with the dime bag of heroin. No doubt we have incentivized for the bigger stakes: bank and hedge fund criminals do very well--and laugh at 'everyman' from their yachts and private jets for which we have paid.
So the real question is how do they do it? We laud ourselves as a democracy--the Italians do so also. Democracy means we all get to elect representatives and that these representatives will behave morally, with care and deliberation. Why else bother if it is just to get fops and bandits? Yet these soiled men have the confidence that they can get away with it, as phoenixes rising from merde, that they have the wherewithal to convince the polity that there is no one better, no one more suited for the office, that they will handle our affairs with integrity, honestly, and intelligently for the good of all. Which means they believe us to be very foolish.
Or, they know the game is rigged. That with money and corporations controlling our politicians and therefore our political process--that those are the big guns that blast you back into the political video game. And that with the PAC joysticks on the money throttle that create nothing but innuendos and personal attacks, falsehoods, and dissimulations, the game can be won if you get the backing. The voters may well follow. Treat them like cud chewing ruminants and they will swallow anything, or that other metaphor of pulling wool over sheep vision.
Which is the principle point. I don't want a Weiner running New York. Despite my support for Medicare-for-All, I can't trust such an obviously flawed person to run the political life of my birthplace. I am not a prude and I believe that people make mistakes and can grow from them. Harm that is confined to the life agreements made in privacy between two people is for those people to work out. But with such a revealed capacity for self-delusion, why would any sane human believe in Weiner's capacity for governance? And aren't there choices other than the Weiners and Sanfords? Is there no longer room in the political process for honest people who aren't part of the existing political machines? Or does devoting 70% of a politician's time to fundraising for campaigns mean that there are just too too many deals, and that really is the name of the game. That is the lifestyle and consciousness that takes over--the 'say and do anything' to close the deal mind.
Money Out of Politics!
Amend the US Constitution!
A very partial list of organizations with an amend focus: Tikkun.org, ESRA and Michael Lerner; FixOurAmerica.org; Change.org; Common Cause; Move to Amend; profoundemocracy.org; Wolf Pac; Root Strikers and Lawrence Lessig; Senator Bernie Sanders; Stamp Stampede; and more...