Eliot Spitzer, who seemed silenced by a prostitution scandal and the end of shows on both CNN and Current TV, is barking again. This time he’s talking about a run for New York City Comptroller, a far cry from his days as governor of New York State, but still. He’s asking people to cast their vote of confidence in someone who had to give up office in shame and disgrace.
Of course, he first has to get 3,750 signatures by Thursday just to get on the ballot. “The public is forgiving. Whether that forgiveness extends to me is a separate question. I will ask for it. I will say to the public: Look what I’ve done in the intervening five years. Look what my record was as attorney general and governor,” he said during one of many interviews he gave today (five before noon, by the New York Daily News’ count). Despite some heckling, some say the campaign launch has been a successful one.
No doubt, he’s taking cues from Mark Sanford, who won a Congressional seat in South Carolina earlier this year after getting caught leaving his post to spend time with his then-mistress in Argentina. And, closer to home, he could be looking to Anthony Weiner, who’s now leading the pack of mayoral candidates in New York City alongside Christine Quinn. The Daily Beast also calls out President Bill Clinton, who overcame more scandal than a group of people have in a lifetime and maintains incredible popularity among Democrats into his post-presidency.
So how is it possible that politicians can thwart scandal with relative ease? Are the suits made out of Teflon? Are they wearing Wonder Woman Bracelets of Victory underneath those cuff-linked Brooks Brothers shirts? Do they have one of those crazy gizmos that Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones use in the Men in Black movies to make people forget everything? We’re going to propose that politicians have the benefit of distance and low expectations.
Congress, right now, has a 10 percent approval rating. So the majority of people think pretty poorly of the government. And with all of the recent scandals — from the IRS to NSA snooping — the level of trust that the American people have in the government is low.
In Spitzer’s case, it helps that he’s running in New York, a state that has looked on as a number of its legislators were investigated or prosecuted for various crimes in recent years. Nowadays, few here are shocked by a politician with a shady past.
In addition, politicians make their pitch once every four years. Brands, for instance, come into your life, in some cases, on a daily basis. You depend on some products to get through even the most mundane everyday chores. When trust is shaken, it has an immediate impact and elicits an immediate reaction. You stop buying that product because it failed.
Politicians, on the other hand, have the chance to build a case over the course of years. No one’s perfect, so a misstep might be overlooked. Detailing why Spitzer is smarter than Weiner for aiming at a lower office his first time back, The Daily Beast says, “Pay your penance while demonstrating a commitment to public service. Work hard, keep your head down, and four to eight years later, electoral redemption would have been well earned. That is now Spitzer’s game plan.”
There’s no guarantee that Spitzer or Weiner will be successful. And not all politicians can make a comeback. But today shows that just about anyone with government aspirations can hang on to a sliver of hope that they can win over a jaded voting public.