11 September 2013
Good News from New York
If yesterday's mayoral primary in New York City was a rebuke to Michael Bloomberg, it was also more obviously a rebuke to Anthony Weiner. The former congressman and apparent sexting addict had briefly been a front-runner in the Democratic primary race due to name recognition, but his reversion to form and the ability of other candidates to define themselves eventually eclipsed the Weiner candidacy. He ended up with about 5% of the vote yesterday and earned his last headlines by flipping the bird a reporter. Democratic primary voters also rebuked the disgraced former governor Eliot Spitzer, though not as emphatically. He made a more respectable showing in the vote to nominate the party's candidate for city comptroller, and Spitzer behaved more respectably during the campaign, at least to our knowledge, but he still lost to a candidate with far less name recognition outside the metropolis. The primary results thus brought an abrupt end to a narrative of redemption that some sought to spin into a liberalization of sexual ethics in America. Given how many politicians succumb to sex scandals, it's no surprise to see arguments that sexual behavior should not determine politicians' worthiness for office, or against any rush to judgment over unconventional sexual behavior. But the New York scandals were scandals not because of sex but because of ethics. Spitzer and Weiner were disgraced because people believed that they had betrayed certain trusts, if not the actual law of the state. Each man plotted a comeback, presumably on the assumption that their celebrity would overwhelm the competition, or that ideological primary voters would see them as champions of causes greater than sexual ethics. While Weiner proved obviously irredeemable, it's unclear how much disdain for Spitzer's ethics contributed to his defeat. If it contributed at all, let that be a lesson to him. According to one ideal voters should vote for principles, not men, but ideological soundness should not become a license to flout the common sense of right and wrong. The common sense may be old-fashioned or repressive, but as long as everyone else is expected to live by it, so should our elected leaders.