In a debate on one of the FOX News Channel shows, Left-of-Center radio show host Leslie Marshall responded to her debate partner’s call for honesty in politics by saying, “Please! We’re talking about politicians.” And there you have it in a nutshell. The American people have moved beyond the concept of apathy where the idea of honesty in politics is concerned, and have arrived at full-blown political sadomasochism. Having completely given up on demanding that those who serve them do so with fidelity to public service, the majority of Americans have simply accepted – as the new normal – that politicians of all stripes offer nothing but false promises, untruths and opportunistic spin for narcissistic gain, i.e. power and wealth. And while this is today’s status quo, it doesn’t have to be this way. Nevertheless, it seems as though we live in an all-encompassing state of political Stockholm Syndrome, unwilling to affect fundamental change, which we, as a people, have the power to do.
A quote often attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville, reads, “Toute nation a le gouvernement qu’elle mérite,” or “Every country has the government it deserves.” This philosophical observation certainly applies to the United States, even if in the most ironic way. Given the fact that our nation allows for the free election of a representative form of government based on a checked-and-balanced (via the Electoral College) democratic system of election, We the People – literally – have the power to shape the personality and morality of the government that we created to serve us. Yet, astoundingly, we have been led to believe that no one vote – no one voter – can affect the outcome of any given election. Again, I refer to Leslie Marshall, “Please! We’re talking about politicians.”
But surrender to this “new political normal” is an exercise in “political sadomasochism”; an embracing of several weaknesses, including acquiescence to a special interest ideological class, apathy toward being engaged enough to search out the facts, and cowardice to confront the more manipulative among us. This political sadomasochism produces – via our own hands – government, at every level, which we all love to hate, blame, demean and complain about; government that places politics and the well-being of politicians and political parties above good government and serving the people.
No better example exists than in the State of New York, where disgraced former US Congressman Anthony Weiner and disgraced former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer are literally leading in the polls for New York City Mayor and New York City Comptroller, respectively.
Everyone – unless they have been sequestered for the last several years, knows the stories that delivered these two men away from public service.
Anthony Weiner, an incredible narcissist and über-abrasive, über-Progressive political operative, has a problem with Tweeting pictures of his penis to young women who aren’t his wife. Recent revelations have proved that he continues to do this even though his wife, Huma Abedin (close buddy-buddy of Hillary Clinton’s), stands by her man, exclaiming that since his resignation from the US House – a resignation executed because he couldn’t keep his cyber-penis in his cyber-pants – he’s been a “model husband and Father.” One has to wonder if “Señora Danger” (Weiner used the moniker Carlos Danger to interact with his cyber-sexual conquests) has changed her mind or if she just likes her men a little bit arrogant and abusive.
Elliot Spitzer, on the other hand, had to resign because he had a penchant for employing high-paid hookers. To her credit, Mrs. Spitzer was recognizably mortified when she stood by her man, as he proclaimed to the world that fidelity to his marriage just wasn’t enough for his sexual appetite.
In both of these examples, we have men who worked their entire lives to attain political power; positioning, campaigning, working up the political ladder and achieving elected office. In both of their careers they achieved some good things. But there is a troubling and undeniable fact that precludes the both of them from every being elected to office again, or at least should preclude them from attaining seats of power every again. They lied to, they willingly deceived, and they manipulated and humiliated the people that trusted them the most, their wives; their life-partners; their soul mates. They both took advantage of the people that are supposed to be the most important people in their lives. And then they asked them to publicly humiliate themselves so they could get the butts out of the media fire.
Truth be told, if a person cannot even be faithful to their spouse; if a person cannot have fidelity to the most important relationship in his or her life, how is anyone supposed to believe that they will have fidelity to any relationship: personal, professional or political?
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me. Lie to me once as an elected representative in government and you should resign, take stock of your life and realize that your time in political life has come to an end by your own hand. But should you lie, cheat and steal and then apologize, huge crocodile tears in your eyes, promising never to do it again while your humiliated spouse stands in your disingenuous shadow, and convince me to vote for you again…well, then, as de Tocqueville espoused, you get the government you deserve.
It is stunning to me that the people of New York are allowing these two liars, these two cheats, to exist but a minute from again taking governmental office. This may sound a bit harsh, but after the outpouring of affection the rest of the nation afforded the people of New York City after September 11, 2001, I expected more than just a “thank you, now back to our regularly scheduled cesspool of politically partisan deviance.” I expected that when given a second chance, they would have done the right thing, corrected wrongs and strived to better themselves as an exercise in appreciation for support, compassion and friendship. I don’t know about you, but New Yorkers’ embrace of Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer is tantamount to a slap in the face. But then that’s just me…
The overriding point to all of this is that it doesn’t have to be this way. We can have better government; government over politics. We all just need to have the courage and dedication to demand that our elected officials respect the people and the office – respect the opportunity – enough to actually serve the electorate, instead of lying to them while lining their pockets and setting up lucrative careers for a post-elected life. We need to support honest people when they want to run for government and reject the notion that the parties are just too big, too powerful to challenge. Because We the People, by virtue of the United States Constitution, literally created the American system of government, We the People have the power to set the standards by which we are served. The fact that we do not is a testimony to our cultivated political sadomasochism.
So, we can either pretend that we do not have the power to achieve government that serves, and glean the scandals of the Weiners and the Spitzers – the scandals of “Dickileaks,” or we can do the hard work and act like Americans and settle for nothing less than the very best. If we cannot, then maybe Eric Holder, while wrong about the subject matter, was correct when he called us a “nation of cowards.”
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America…” – The Preamble to the United States Constitution.