Run, Anthony, Run

Anthony Weiner should stay in the race, but voters must punish him at the polls.

By + More
Republicans argue that the raft of sex scandals involving Democratic politicians prove that the Democratic Party is the one waging a 'war on women.'
Republicans argue that the raft of sex scandals involving Democratic politicians prove that the Democratic Party is the one waging a 'war on women.'

There is a strong case for Anthony Weiner to drop out of New York City's mayoral race. Dirty.com's reveal of his latest portfolio of his privy parts reminds us that his personal behavior doesn't merit him the keys to the city.

There is, however, intrinsic value in him staying in the race. Should Weiner lose the Democratic Primary – by enough that he doesn't wind up in a run-off with the victor – his defeat will send a message to politicians of similar ilk that scripted acts of contrition, with fine print disclaimers that more bad behavior may come to light, won't fool voters. Integrity matters.

Of course, whether or not New York City's voters agree is a coin toss. Voters, in general, increasingly give scandal-laden candidates a pass, regardless of the transgression, or, as it seems, the decreasing amount of time said offender spends rehabilitating. If one is able to offer up a good "I learned my lesson" story complete with spousal sign-off, then no worries – all is forgiven. Cue up the balloons and confetti.

This past May, South Carolina's ex-Governor Mark Sanford won a special election to take over Republican Tim Scott's 1st District congressional seat. Sanford's victory came in the face of his five-day disappearance in June 2009. Unbeknownst to South Carolina's State Enforcement Division, the providers of his security detail, and his wife Jenny, Sanford was gallivanting across Buenos Aires with Maria Belen Chapur, a woman he later called his soul mate while ripping a tide of tears during an interview with the Associated Press. 

[See a collection of political cartoons on the David Petraeus Scandal.]

The resulting investigation not only revealed his affair, but also that he had used state funds to pay for the trip, and that he had many times abused his privilege to use state planes. In total, he spent some $340,000 flying South Carolina's friendly skies, and, in one instance, charged the state for a $1,200 flight to get a haircut.

Sanford resigned his leadership post with the Republican Governors Association, but not the governorship. South Carolina's state legislature eventually punished him with censure: a slap-on-the-wrist. They considered thrashing him with the impeachment-whip, but decided that overturning an election would be far more damaging to the state than letting a crooked official serve out his term. The bad child was not returnable.

During the special election, Sanford violated his divorce agreement and trespassed on his wife's property. But, with the nods of multiple high-profile Republicans, he beat his Democratic opponent Elizabeth Colbert Busch 54 percent to 45 percent. No harm no foul.

It's time to change the normative rules of electoral politics. Anthony Weiner should stay in the race, but voters must punish him at the polls: the only way these fools learn their lesson. Otherwise, it will be the voters' fault when Weiner breaks Gracie Mansion's WiFi uploading too many "selfies."

  • Read Peter Roff: Anthony Weiner Should Drop Out of the Race for New York City Mayor
  • Read Robert Schlesinger: Poll Shows GOP Disconnect From Mainstream Voters Over Gridlock
  • Check out U.S. News Weekly, now available on iPad