I’m not judging individual politicians. I’m judging a trend.
Clinton. Sanford. Lee. Ensign. Vitter. Straus-Kahn. Weiner.
Example after example of men in power not just cheating but abusing their powerful positions in sexual relationships with structurally less-powerful women — and then trading on their trust and credibility with the public to try and cover up their acts.
Yes, when Republicans who moralize about “family values” get caught with their pants down, it opens them up to critiques of hypocrisy. But that aside, Republican scandals actually perversely advance the Republican agenda. “…One more example that politicians are all corrupt bastards, so therefore you can’t trust government…”
Democrats, on the other hand, have the vital job of restoring trust in government, in helping all Americans see the role that government has played and must continue to play creating and spreading opportunity for all of us. And the downside to being a progressive standard bearer is you have to bear higher standards. If we want public institutions to be revered, than those who serve the public must act with greater reverence.
Including greater reverence for women.
So how is it the many male politicians we entrust, Republicans and Democrats, to protect the very amorphous borders of the United States cannot respect the very physical and clear boundaries of women? Especially at a time of astonishing political and economic crisis, where the need for leadership is greater than ever, why can’t they keep their little Congressmen in their pants and focus their attention on the needs of their constituents and the nation?
If you’re response is that, allegedly, at least 50% of men cheat then fine. That still leaves plenty from the other 50% who can run for office.
The reason doping allegations are such a scandal in sports is because, fundamentally, we look up to athletes as role models and want to think of them as generally upstanding and honest heroes. And that’s in something as frankly trivial as sports! Now we’re talking about our nation’s government, the traditions of public leadership and trust handed down from our Founding Fathers to the elected officials of today. And no, the Founding Fathers were not perfect either — nor were Teddy Roosevelt, JFK and so on. Fortunately for Benjamin Franklin, the etchings of his flying kite that he sent to some young woman weren’t posted on Facebook. The standards today are different. And I, for one, want to be able to encourage my daughter to correspond with her Member of Congress in this great era of technological transparency — without her being exposed to her Member’s member.
Weiner is a great champion of political causes. Or was. Now he is fast becoming the Tiger Woods of politics, an albatross around the neck of any issue he may champion going forward. If we feel the need to defend Weiner simply because there are so few bold progressive voices in the Democratic party today, that says much more about the Democratic party in general than Weiner in specific. We cannot solve the Democrats’ pathetic leadership vacuum by desperately clinging to dud leaders.
Integrity matters. And in a time when, more than ever, we need our politicians to use their power for good, there’s no room for those who abuse their power over others. I don’t know if this entire episode reflects most poorly on Weiner in specific, men in power in general or even all men potentially — but let’s use this as an opportunity to not just chastise Weiner’s poor judgment but to, once and for all, say enough is enough. You cannot credibly serve the interests of the nation while appearing to habitually, systematically demean and disregard all women therein.
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