The Democratic establishment should trust the people

The most famous texter in the world, Anthony Weiner is a jerk, a troubled jerk. I’ve never respected the guy, but something interesting is going on here. In a country where Penthouse, Hustler and Playboy sell millions and millions of copies every month, we puritanical Americans have heaped scorn, anger and abuse on Weiner. Not content to stop with him, we now heap abuse on his wife for staying with him. I have actually been subjected by a colleague to hearing the actual words that Weiner wrote to his fantasy love interest. This is truly the stuff of the above mentioned magazines. It is also the stuff that some people say as they rev up their sex life. If you don’t believe that, troll the channels on your cable system at night and see the dubious materials that millions of American access all the time.

Weiner, however, is not just any American. He was a congressman and is married to a Hillary Clinton associate. He resigned because his texts were made public. Unfortunately, he also tried lying about the fact that the text was his, proving once more that the cover-up is at least as bad as the crime. Politicians from Dick Nixon (“I am not a crook”) to Bill Clinton (“I never had sex with that woman”) have all learned that the hard way.

What is fascinating about the whole debate was the insistence by the Democratic Party establishment that Weiner resign and get out of the mayoral race in New York. For his part, Weiner was between the well-known rock and the hard place. If he resigned, he was through, forever and ever in politics. He managed to stage this futile come-back and for a while, it looked like he might actually make it happen. He was actually leading in the polls. That, of course, is when the news surfaced that he was still sending incendiary sex texts even after he resigned. Weiner must have felt that if he resigned, he would be done and that he would never come back. If he stayed with the election, even if he lost, he would have less of the inevitable “disgraced” tag that caught politicians have to bear forever.

I have been teaching politics, communication and journalism for years. I have always started every class telling students that it is character, that basic human orientation, that determines political and human behavior. There are some people who just can’t stop doing self destructive things and Anthony Weiner seems to be a prime example of why some politicians fail.

It should be clear to anyone who has followed Weiner over the years that the man is very smart but not smart enough to stop engaging in self-destructive behavior. There isn’t a day that goes by that we do not see otherwise good people fail because they have been caught engaging in sexual imbroglios. Hey, half the marriages in America fail — some because of sexual infidelity — but we still insist on sainthood for our politicians. Do we really think that Anthony Weiner never thought on some level that he wouldn’t get caught talking to someone he didn’t even know? That is why so many Americans are so transfixed on the guy. I mean, when in history has an election for mayor of New York so attracted national attention?

The Democratic Party clearly felt that they all might get tagged with the Weiner smell and that might hurt them nationwide. But by doing that they gave the impression that they were afraid of Weiner and that he might win. Last time, the voters seemed to be with him. This time he will not lead in the polls although in a runoff type election he might be one of the final choices that the people have. People have been reading page six in the New York Post so much that Weiner might just be another celebrity who they get a kick out of. In the end, Weiner will not be mayor of New York, and if the Democrats had any real understanding of this, they would not be afraid of the people’s ability to tell him that.

Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 7/29/13

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