You’ll remember my incredibly incorrect prediction that now-Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) would not get elected to public office again. I figured, even if we had largely gotten past the mere fact of the marital indiscretion, his hiding his whereabouts from even his staff, plus some pretty big missteps during the House race, would be enough to keep voters from trusting him. Well, if he can do it, maybe former Rep. Anthony Weiner and former Gov. Eliot Spitzer (both D-NY), running, respectively, for mayor and comptroller of New York City, can do it, too.
But it’s not just disgraced politicians in America hoping to live down their sex scandals. Adam Giambrone, a former Toronto city councillor, was nominated this weekend as the New Democratic Party (NDP) of Ontario’s candidate in the provincial riding of Scarborough–Guildwood. During his eight-day mayoral campaign in 2010, he was felled by the 19-year-old woman with whom he was cheating on his girlfriend. It took three years, but Giambrone has finally decided to end his absence from politics. (He also married the pitiful creature he humiliated, but that’s beside the point.)
Those who have lived longer can feel free to correct me on this, but it seems that there was once an era in which politicians involved in sex scandals had zero hope of re-election, and rarely, if ever, took a stab at it. But that was back in the days in which people didn’t much like talking about sex. If this doesn’t prove that we’ve gotten past that, I don’t know what does. But now, even with the added components of hypocrisy and misuse of state resources, voters care a lot less.
It’s an interesting paradox: We have more freedom to talk about sex, but we always claim to be above availing ourselves of it, instead dismissing it as the business of the individual politician and his or her family – which it is, unless, in the above cases, it has a tangible impact on the public trust. Certainly, putting politicians’ agendas and beliefs ahead of their personal foibles is a virtue in politics. Assuming they’re worth electing in the first place, we might as well.
And even if we roll our eyes at the often sensational media coverage of political sex scandals, we do talk about it amongst ourselves. (“Talk about” in the above paragraph mainly referred to the media.) That hasn’t changed. You can’t say the name “Weiner” or “Spitzer” without some wit adding “I didn’t even know ‘er!” But except for the uptightness lobby, sex scandals aren’t the deciding factor at the ballot box they once were. Now we’re likelier to remember the good about the people at the center of them. We may still pressure them to quit at first, but we give them a second chance now. It may not be much progress, but it’s progress.
But, really. Weiner and Spitzer? Did the New York Post headline writers pay them to screw around, just so they’d have nonstop material? Next we’ll see guys named Doer, Focker, Hardin and Dix resigning in shame.