Electronic Technology and our Democracy: When Congressmen misbehave in the public eye and attempt to hold on to their offices?
In my doctoral dissertation, a quarter century ago, I recognized the potential of electronic technology in affording the user to communicate in numerous ways to ubiquitous places. At that time, my attention was focused on the potential that the technology had, in allowing farmers communicate, including moving files and data over satellite and video-conference lines. What I missed or hardly could imagine was that an astute liberal leaning politician would someday use this technology to transfer half naked or full picture of himself to places and people he has never met; or, familiarized himself with their character.
In the past months or years, Congressman Weiner, Democrat from New York, did what was unimagined and probably considered lewd and unacceptable behavior, by sending picture of his naked body to females across the nation, a few of whom he has confessed not to have met; and, in light of his recent public confession, probably hardly can tell if he had coached them on how to handle the media, if this uncomfortable behavior, become public. The discussion of this issue on this blog today has nothing to do with how a conservative activist ousted Congressman Weiner or why politicians tend to be self-centered, but why some of these narcissistic lawmakers are often caught in web of lies, after this type of fiasco. I know that your imagination could run wild, if I let you this morning. However, I am just going to discuss a few of the behavioral implications to voters and our Democracy.
Underhanded behavior regarding male-female relationships are hardly foreign to politicians. I can list a whole page of fiasco in recent memory from the Whitehouse to Governor’s Offices; from Capitol Hill to State Capital; from Senators to Congressmen; the list is endless in American politics. This fiasco is probably not going to end with Congressman Weiner; neither is it going to task other politicians to watch their steps as they use their blackberries or other newer technologies in communicating, either with their constituents, close associates or those they have hardly met. Cyber-relationships and infidelities are now growing and one is wondering when are these relationships going to be considered marital infidelities or cheating; and, what is the honorable thing to do when a politician or person is caught in this confusion. Although many politicians are simply gracious by stepping down when caught in a dastardly act, occasionally, some of them work hard to keep their offices even under the stress of criticisms and bad press over their alleged misbehavior.
Smart and reflective politicians often take the gracious way out and save their family, close associates and constituents the embarrassments of the bad media. In a country where there is an oversupply of people waiting to get into congress or become lawmakers, it is not surprising that when one person gets into the office, he or she attempts to hold on to it, as if the office is synonymous with their ego or superego. Not withstanding failures or misbehavior, some lawmakers are just too much into themselves and can hardly fathom why their failures or misbehavior is of concern to many. Now, can you relate to why Mr. Weiner is somewhat unapologetic for his behavior and attempting to hold on to his office? Yes, there have been a few politicians caught in similar Web, who waded the storm and survived!
Sometimes, the values of the politicians are in sync with their constituents, occasionally, they are not. The question then is this: should a politician step down once caught in underhanded behavior and save his family, close associates and constituent the embarrassment of bad media? Some people will reply: It depends; others will say, Precisely Yes! In this case of Congressman Weiner, some members of his constituent appreciate the work he is doing for them in congress; others are probably unsatisfied and are asking for his outage at the first prompt of the fiasco. Both groups would have their say in the next election in Mr. Weiner’s New York Constituency. One man’s hair loss is another’s wig!
While Congressman Weiner behavior is just too suffocating and disheartening for some, other people consider it as a matter between his wife and himself. Like one gentleman said on the MSNBC ED Show, he did not elect Mr. Weiner to represent him in congress on grounds of his private life, rather on what he has been doing, standing up for liberal values on health care and Medicare; both programs that affect him and his family directly. To talk about Mr. Weiner’s behavior with regard to moving nude pictures over phone lines, probably during the 24-hour work cycle expected from a lawmaker, is to miss the point of his election from his New York constituent, says the interviewee. It is a position that is baffling for some people. It is also a position that is quite in line with the thinking of Mr. Weiner right now.
Oversimplification of how a congressman is expected to behave while in office, or how he is expected to behave as member of a body that holds itself to a high standard through its Code of Ethics, is sometimes challenging. Since Congressmen are not acting in official capacity with respect to their private relationship, or so we expect, it is often a gray line, to condemn them unequivocally regarding a behavior that would be considered as horrendous and unacceptable for a person in the capacity of a congressman. When you have people in position of power doing eye-popping things or acting juvenile, you wonder what type of democracy we are running.
According to my grandma, what you are ashamed to let me know is a behavior that I do not expect from you. You want to have a culture of behavior in your congressman that does not challenge a good thing or values that you hold dearly. You want to think that the best person, both privately and publicly, is representing your interest in congress. A lot of time, you believe that the person you are voting for in a general election, will work hard not only in representing your interest in congress, but also, in sharing your values and those of the majority of residents in your constituency. With the new decadence behavior of many of our governors, lawmakers and representatives, it may be time to do more leg walk in finding out, among the candidates vying or putting themselves up for election into public offices, which of them hold high the values you hold dearly; and, are they representative of the majority of residents in your constituency? Further, which of the candidates for the public office is more likely to remain loyal to those epitomized values; and, which of them is more likely to deviate, or fall short of the epitomized values while in office. Even with these, you can never be sure, all the time!
There are several misjudging, misguiding or outright misbehavior that can come from a lawmaker representing your interest in congress, not because you did not choose right, but because of the difficult nature of predicting human behavior. When candidates present themselves for an office, he or she, attempts to present the advocacy part of them to you and often, you buy into those qualities when you go into the voting booth to elect someone. Experience has shown that politicians are sometimes able to act in consonance with your expectation when in office; and, sometimes, these same individuals can be complete failures in difficult situations. Further, it has been documented that social behavior are relative for some people; while some politicians are able to maintain their integrity, when push comes to shove, others can hardly tell you what behavior is considered acceptable or the norm for the office they are seeking or holding. Additionally, some politicians are sources of inspirations for their constituency, who want to believe that they voted the right person to represent their interest; however, there are occasions when the wrong guy gets the job. On the latter occasion, you may just have to suck it up until next election, or until a re-call election is feasible.
Many politicians are probably not open with members of their constituency, regarding all the issues they are going through, especially in their private lives. Many politicians are able to curtail their behavior while in office, others are not. In fact, some politicians hide from public eye, the evil side of them that have always been present. Withholding the dark side of them is the probably the only option available to these politicians, if they are to win the coveted office. If members of their constituents have the premonitions that there is this dark side to their representatives, they probably will not vote him or her into office. When all the attention is focused on the issues that affect constituent members, it is hard to sieve through the negative aspect of that politician that is going to stand up for those issues. While we cannot completely blame the public for poor choice made in a politician’s private life, it behooves the politicians to stand up for integrity; and, this why a case for Mr. Weiner’s resignation is in order.
There are so many things going on in the life of a politician. Many of them, the politician have control over, others probably not. A politicians who is able to develop a healthy private relationship, would probably be able to maintain an over the board public life. Establishing strong bonds with family members and friends is probably a good recipe for establishing greater bond with one’s constituency. Politicians who have acquired taste, either through associations with other politicians who have made their name through honesty and integrity, does not assure that these men-tees, will uphold same standard associated with their mentor. Arguing on behalf of Weiner in the context of his chief-of-staff association with Hilary Clinton is not just enough. One cannot expect same moral behavior from Weiner as from Hilary Clinton. In a closer-to-perfect world, you’ll expect that Weiner would uphold some values of Hilary Clinton, or learned something from the experience with Bill Clinton!
In order to have a representative that uphold the highest standard and value of behavior, both publicly and privately, politicians have to be forthcoming and honest about their private and public life. Voters have to be able to say, this what my representative will do under this circumstance, and this is what he or she would not. Without such trust, it is difficult to foretell what a politician will end up doing while in office, or under some circumstances. If a politician is focused and sensitive to what his or her constituent is all about, it is very unlikely that he or she will be caught in underhanded behavior or fiasco as the one Mr. Weiner is, today.
Our Democracy needs reliable and consistent men and women. The system requires honest men and women, willing to put their interest second to members of their constituency when it comes to making laws or upholding ideal values. A Democracy cannot survive on lies and innuendos, neither will it thrive, if our congress is populated with men and women, who are so much ready to send pictures of their shirtless bodies across unsecured computer connections or networks. Yes, times are changing, but we all seem to know what decency is when we see it. We all expect our lawmakers to hold themselves to the highest standard and maintain some decency and integrity, even when not in the office.