Muller: Anthony Weiner candidacy may reveal Americans ready to move past political scandal


Yoni Muller, Assistant Opinion Editor

Tuesday night, comedians across the country rejoiced at the news that former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) was back in the spotlight. As it turns out, he didn’t just discover Vine (though it’s probably just a matter of time) but has officially announced his intention to run for mayor of New York City.

As most of us remember, Weiner was a congressman who resigned in disgrace after he tweeted photos of his, uh… surname, to various women. Unfortunately, the Internet is a place where temporary judgment lapses become permanent shrines of your failure. Just ask the lunatic from University of Maryland’s Delta Gamma chapter – at your own risk, of course. As a result, Weiner’s member has been seen by more people than Wilt Chamberlain’s, and he will forever have a very visible reminder of the scandal that derailed his career.

However, with the launch of his mayoral campaign, something drastic could be taking place. Never in probably anyone’s life has anyone expected these words to be put together, but the fate of political campaigns in America rests on Anthony Weiner’s now-clothed shoulders.

The problem in politics has always been the importance of the image a candidate provides. Excellent ideas and experience aren’t enough if you had an affair, were caught doing cocaine, teased a kid in high school or did anything that doesn’t support the notion that you are a pristine, squeaky-clean candidate with no major blemishes.

Of course there are exceptions to every rule; just a few weeks ago Mark Sanford won a special election in Congress after an affair led to his resignation as governor. But there can be no denying that the pressure to come as close to this perfect image as possible is all too present for politicians. This is why the vetting process for vice president is so grueling; why for every Mark Sanford there is a Herman Cain, an Eric Massa, a David Petraeus and more.

With today’s infatuation with social media, millions of Americans are, by traditional standards, destroying any chances they may have of a career in politics before even considering them. Unless someone decides at an early age they want to be a politician and plan accordingly, they are likely to have at least one unbelievably stupid Facebook status, one politically incorrect comment or joke, one picture of them drinking underage or some other potential scandal currently up and waiting for the world to see. Until voters are willing to adopt a measure of leniency for past personal action when considering political candidates, aspiring senators, governors and presidents will be left watching from the sidelines while a less qualified person runs.

The unique situation that arises here is that Weiner was a very well-received and highly regarded politician. Yet he was the subject of arguably the most visible scandal in American political history. I could literally see Anthony Weiner naked with as much ease as I could see myself naked. In many ways, Weiner embodies the candidate who would run on policy alone — no secrets to hide, no choir-boy image to uphold, just ideas.

As the election unfolds, there are only three potential outcomes. The first is that Weiner wins the election. The second and third are both that he loses, but the second outcome involves him losing due to his experience, ideas and vision; the third involves him losing because of the scandal. This last one would simply reinforce the status quo in American politics. But an outcome that minimizes or eliminates the impact of Weiner’s admittedly idiotic past decisions would suggest that perhaps Americans are ready to seek not only the most unblemished candidate, but the most innovative or qualified one to hold public office.

Yoni Muller is a Weinberg sophomore. He can be reached at [email protected]. If you want to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].