People Like Anthony Weiner Can Stay in Politics — They Just Shouldn't Campaign

Revelations that New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner repeatedly sexted women after his embarrassing resignation from Congress, and that San Diego Mayor Bob Filner checked himself into rehab for inappropriately groping, licking, and kissing female colleagues, remind us of the frequency with which powerful men in American politics act inappropriately.

When these types of scandals are exposed the men are subjected to intense public scrutiny. The guilty are shamed, and usually compelled to serve an unofficial time-out of around two years. After time away from the alluring spotlight of politics, when the disgraced have gone to rehab, mended damaged relationships, or taken well-calculated moves to improve their image, they come back for more. 

It is as if these “leaders” go through media attention withdrawals, like a drug addict or an alcoholic unable to get over their fix. Why do they refuse to step down when they are caught and disgraced, and why do they run for office with such shameless frequency? They seem unfazed by the hatred the American public buries them under, as if they are political warriors on a divine mission to defeat the forces of sanity against all odds. After their indiscretions are revealed, their already diminished private lives disappear entirely, as all their dirty laundry gets hung out for everyone to see and judge.

That’s not to say people can’t change, they can. But some of the things these men have been caught doing are too heinous and degrading for them to deserve the public’s trust again.

Former politicians can demand huge salaries working as lobbyists, as campaign consultants, as political advisers, or even as pundits on cable news shows. Legislation needs people to move it through the process of committees, markups, and floor debate. Elections require scores of party staffers crunching data, organizing field operations, running phone banks, and fundraising. Former politicians are often the best prepared to take on jobs in lobbying, consulting, and campaigning because they have dealt with so many diverse political operatives during their time in office.

Many of these jobs allow the individual to make just as much of an impact on politics by managing the path of actual policies. The average U.S. congressman today makes $174,000, but Republic Report found that when a congressman becomes a lobbyist their income skyrockets by an average of 1,452%. I’m not advocating for politicians to become lobbyists, but we would be naïve to think the revolving door isn’t available for former members of Congress to become rich.

But the question isn’t simply why these disgraced public officials don't accept the high wages they can demand in the private sector, because money certainly isn’t the only motivating factor in career choice. To be fair, most public servants initially ran to help people or effect change. That being said, it’s almost as though these compulsive, obsessive sex addicts are compulsively obsessed with running for public office. There is incentive to do other jobs in politics, but maybe not enough to entice these men away from the public eye and into these roles.

Some starve for sexual attention, and some starve for public attention. All who get caught with their pants off when they shouldn’t be are unfortunately unable to maintain any sort of distance between those two desires.

For men to make such embarrassing public mistakes, and then to have the confidence that their return to political office is best for the people is shocking. Do these men think they are so important that politics can’t go on without them? After they are disgraced, do they have a realization that they must repent, and that running again is the only way to do this? Those who answer yes to both questions are either power-hungry, misguided, or unaware of the many other ways they can make an impact — I doubt it’s the last of the three options.

Running for office is not the only way to affect politics, it is simply the most public way. Some of the men involved in these “redemption” stories need reminding of this before they further damage their parties, hurt their families, and create a drag on American politics.