With the announcement of shamed former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s intent to run for mayor of New York City in the November election, the American political arena continues to run amok with morally disgraced has-beens attempting to revitalize their once-distinguished careers in public service.
It comes only weeks after former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who used state funds to finance an extramarital affair with an Argentine woman, was elected by South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District to serve in the House.
The success of these fallen politicians in their continued political pursuits is fueled not by their ability to pick themselves up off their feet, but by continuing media stints that base their cases for return on shallow foundations.
There are three tiers to the political framework: the constituency, the candidates and the public relations staff who service the candidates. The latter of the three generally functions as an intermediary between the other two, mitigating media leaks that could be damaging to the candidate’s reputation while representing his or her employers with the most angelic and benevolent overtones.
The process is eerily similar in all cases: A round of denials followed by concession, the politician solemnly lowering his or her gaze at a press conference, asking for forgiveness and appealing to a higher power for rehabilitation.
Months later, after the frenzy dissipates, the slow ascent from “rock bottom” begins. Much of the ensuing success can be attributed to the media’s propensity to forget or remain apathetic to the entire ordeal.
Sensationalism also plays a significant role. Instead ofhighlighting key issues pertaining to the election, popular outlets tend to portray these comeback candidates as reality show contestants, discussing what proper course of action should be taken to minimize the risk of bringing past mistakes into the limelight again. There is rarely a discussion of track record or policy.
How likely are voters to put their trust in a man who violated his marital vows in such an egregious way? A politician’s past becomes irrelevant when media outletsdiscuss public relations tactics rather than actual political platforms that are relevant to constituents.
Past behavior hardly matters because controversy and image are more appealing than platform and values. Politics has become a game laced with hypocrisy and sprinkled with a hint of apathy. How else can a man like Elliot Spitzer, who resigned as the governor of New York because of his involvement in a statewide prostitution ring, become a political commentator on cable television? Why else would Italian media magnate Silvio Berlusconi be a front-runner for the most powerful position in Italian politics despite a mile-long paper trail of allegations including prostitution and fraud?
Cable news media has built an entire industry on overtly discussing how politicians can fool their constituents into voting for them and how effective they have been at implementing these distracting strategies.
Unless the media establishment is willing to set a standard of accountability for such actions, the trend is likely to continue in the future.
Anthony Weiner could have a solid chance at winning his mayoral bid, relying on a public relations campaign that emphasizes home and family, the same virtues that he abandoned by being unfaithful to his wife.