What caused the Democrats to lose a New York congressional seat Tuesday that has been safe for the party since Jurassic times? Well, there’s Barack Obama, who presides over a sorry economy. And there’s Barack Obama whose love for Israel lacks warmth, passion and, on any given day, credibility. (Former mayor Ed Koch endorsed the Republican on that issue alone.) And then there is gay marriage, which many of the Orthodox Jews in the district opposed, but we should not forget the Democratic congressional leadership, without which there would not have been a need for a special election in the first place. They forced Anthony Weiner to resign.
Now, I am fully aware of what Weiner did and that what he did makes him a schmuck. Anyone who sends sexually suggestive pictures of himself to perfect strangers has not only done what Freud, in one of his more creative moments, called “das icky,” but has put his career, his marriage and all that he cares about in the hands of someone else. This is hardly prudent.
The Democratic leadership moved with rare dispatch to rid itself of Weiner. Even though he had committed no crime, he was an embarrassment and they said that dealing with his situation impeded the usual fluidity of the congressional process which, in a heartbeat, went from glacial to ossified and nearly cost the United States of America its credit worthiness. The party purged the weird Weiner even though at the other end of his tweets were women who wanted to be there and who in no way were victims. One of them even paraded on the “Today” show, a rare appearance by a woman whose daughter had not disappeared.
Now the swift application of Victorian hypocrisy has cost the Democratic Party a sorely needed congressional seat. Even after Weiner’s exposing himself had been exposed, he still led in the polls. Whether he would have continued to do so, is anyone’s guess — campaigns have a way of affecting the polls — but the chances are good that, next year, he could have held his seat. By then, the scandal would have been replaced by yet another Kardashian wedding and we all would have moved on.
I grew up in what is now New York’s Ninth Congressional District and, with a single exception — the only one on my block to have graduated college — I did not know a single Republican. It was the uni-party nature of the district that permitted the defenestration of the hapless Weiner. If the Ninth had been 50-50, my guess is that Weiner would still be in Congress.
When Weiner resigned under (extreme) pressure, I argued that his behavior, while obnoxious and just plain weird, did not victimize anyone but himself. I have to amend that observation. By panicking and by showing a distinct lack of principle, the feckless Democratic leadership shot itself in the foot. It got rid of Weiner, all right — and his congressional seat as well.