The beauty of America is that anyone can run for political office. It doesn’t matter about your gender, skin color, party affiliation, education or financial background; if you meet the qualifications laid out to run, you can have your shot to persuade the voters that you’re the best person for the job.
So it’s both hilarious and disturbing to watch political leaders, business magnates and even journalists rip Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer to shreds for their decision to seek elected office in New York’s municipal election.
For Weiner, he is running for mayor of the city, two years after resigning from Congress for posting provocative photos of himself on Twitter and then lying about it. In the case of Spitzer, he wants to be comptroller of the city, five years after he resigned as New York governor for repeatedly engaging the services of a prostitute.
Reading and listening to the elites of New York, you swear that Weiner and Spitzer are convicted felons who murdered someone and both should rot in hell and never be seen again.
Egomaniacal. Power hungry. Shameful. Pathetic. Without a moral compass. You name it; both have been called it for choosing to run after sex scandals.
Christine C. Quinn, speaker of the New York City Council and running for the Democratic mayoral nomination, made a striking comment to the New York Times about both men.
“For me the question with both Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer is what have they been doing to earn this second chance?” she said.
They also reported her as saying that she had seen little that would “redeem themselves from their selfish behavior.”
So what exactly is a political person supposed to do to earn a second chance after a sex scandal? Go to confession daily? Volunteer at a community center? Exactly what?
Let’s be clear: It’s not like America hasn’t seen politicians involved in sex scandals continuing to serve in office. They were kept there by the ultimate deciders: the voters.
Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana should know. He was a frequenter of high-paid prostitutes associated with the D.C. Madam, but never resigned and ran for re-election. He won.
South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford had an affair, was busted after disappearing for a few days, finished out his term, went off into oblivion in disgrace, then re-emerged this year and won a special election to Congress. He was upfront with the voters about his past, asked for forgiveness, and was elected.
Former Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts almost derailed his political career when he was busted three decades ago for having an affair with a male prostitute. He weathered a congressional investigation, and went on to become a liberal stalwart in Congress and one of its most respected members.
The ultimate winner in the political hall of shame who flipped the script to live up to his nickname as the Comeback Kid is President Bill Clinton. While in office he admitted to having a sexual affair with intern Monica Lewinsky. Although impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives, he wasn’t convicted in the U.S. Senate and remained in office to finish out his term. Today, with the Clinton Global Initiative, he is routinely hailed as one of the world’s top leaders.
Other than Clinton, every single one of these politicians rightfully went through the fire and put their fate in the hands of the final arbiters of their political future: the voters via the ballot box.
This is not about absolving Spitzer and Weiner or anyone else of his or her sins. It is not about brushing their actions off. But it a reminder to the folks who attack both with impunity that in America, what your critics say is meaningless. It’s what the voters think that will be the ultimate determination.
Will Weiner and Spitzer be good for New York City? I don’t know. I don’t live there and don’t vote there. But when I see the vicious attacks on both from the business, political and media elites, just for choosing to run, it’s just a reminder that they no longer get to pick who governs a city. Only the people — every day, hard-working people — will make the ultimate call.
And that’s the way it should be.
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Roland S. Martin is host and managing editor of TV One Cable Network’s “Washington Watch” and senior analyst for the Tom Joyner Morning Show, where he is heard daily.