The Democratic Party likes to position itself as women-friendly on such issues as choice, equal pay and equal opportunity. So why do so many Democratic Party men fall short in their personal relations with women? From Bill Clinton to Eliot Spitzer, from Vito Lopez to Anthony Weiner, Democratic Party men have engaged in the kind of behavior that one would think would be seen as antithetical to women’s interests. Yet women voters seem ready to forgive their personal indiscretions. Why?
It seems voters in general are swayed more by what these men say than what they do. One possible reason is that the voters do not have any personal contact with these men. They only know them through the news media and each of these men, with the possible exception of Vito Lopez, is expert at managing his image. Each appears devoted to protecting the innocent and the poor, to advancing the disadvantaged and to taking down the enemies of the people––namely, Wall Street and Republicans.
Of course, there have been Republicans whose personal behavior conflicted with their professed values, but Republicans are less likely to engage in pandering on gender, race and ethnicity.
Pandering has become a modern political art form. It benefits from the short-term memory of the voting public and from the media’s grasping onto candidates who espouse big ideals.
Thus, voters forget, if they ever knew, that the Sheriff of Wall Street, as the media dubbed Eliot Spitzer, often crossed the line as Attorney General of NYS that separates responsible investigation on behalf of the public and using the power of government to engage in ad hominem personal attacks. (See John Faso’s excellent analysis in the New York Daily News “Spitzer’s Reckless Leadership @ http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/spitzer-reckless-leadership-article-1.1401585)
People willing to run for public office certainly need large egos to stand up to constant attention and the possibility of failure, but unchecked these egos too often display the kind of behavior on a personal level typified by Bill Clinton’s denials, Vito Lopez’ harassing of female staffers (a not uncommon theme among men in the State Legislature), and Anthony Weiner’s sexualizing his relations with female followers.
It’s easy to be in favor of something when you do not have to sacrifice or give up anything personally. When a politician proposes broad legislation to aid women, minorities, immigrants, etc. his personal circumstances are not impacted. To the contrary he hopes his support for those groups will enable him to remain in office with all the rewards that go with the position. When elected officials attack businesses like Eliot Spitzer and his successors have done from the Attorney General’s office in Albany, they are not penalized if their charges are unfounded. As along as his career is advanced no price someone else has to pay is too great.
Let’s hope the voters of New York City wake up and keep Vito Lopez, Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer from succeeding in fooling them once again.