There's a 70's-era mantra that San Diego mayor Bob Filner seems, stunningly, to have missed.
No means no.
That doesn't only mean that the more than a dozen women Filner is accused of sexually harassing or molesting – ranging from a sexual assault victim to a great-grandmother – have the right to say no to a man with political power. And it doesn't only mean that when you try to kiss a woman against her will and she turns her head away from you, that you don't get to run your slimy tongue on her face, as Filner allegedly has done.
It means that when your constituents are mounting a recall campaign to get you out, and when the entire city council has called on you to step down, and the city attorney is looking at ways to get you removed from office by citing an obscure local law that allows removal if there was an abuse of city funds – that, collectively, is one big No.
Filner, at last report, was in mediation talks that could include – at long last – his resignation. But for weeks, Filner has myopically insisted he would stay. Why doesn't Filner understand that he's not wanted in that job anymore? And how does he imagine he could govern people who don't respect his authority or, for that matter, him? What goes on in the head of a man who has been told in very blunt terms that people think he's a creepy, misogynist jerk, and can no longer effectively serve as mayor, yet still believes he can keep his job?
It's the same mentality exercised at a somewhat less offensive level by other pols and candidates. Anthony Weiner, who's barely at 10 percent in the polls for the Democratic nomination for mayor, still refuses to accept the "No" he's been getting from the public. Weiner's transgressions are cringe-inducing (though they don't reach the low level of Filner's alleged behavior), but the former congressman goes on the campaign trail insisting that what New Yorkers care about is housing and transportation and other workaday issues.
No, they don't. Or they do, but they also are just too creeped out at the idea of a serial sexter living at Gracie Mansion. Then there are the perennial candidates, the ones who keep running for office even though they keep losing, for some reason just not getting the hint.
I blame the teenage dating culture – or at least, the teenage dating culture that was in place when most of these men were young. Back then, the idea was that a female waited around for a male to approach her, and if no one did, she stayed home. That is unfortunately the same mentality that keeps a lot of worthy women from running for office.
The males, meanwhile, were raised to believe that if they were just persistent enough, they'd get the girl. Just keep calling, keep asking her questions in class or in the hallway, and sooner or later, they'll wear down. The idea that there was something arrogant and sort of pathetic about the idea of having to manipulate someone into going out with you never seemed to stick. And certainly, the idea of winning – in this case, winning an actual person – took precedence over evaluating whether the would-be relationship really was a two-way street.
Maybe that's what makes men like Filner stay in office and Weiner stay in the race despite all indication that the public has uttered a loud No.
Maybe they need to be given another playbook. This one called "They're Just Not That Into You."