Once, Anthony Weiner was considered a rising star in the Democratic Party. On Thursday, his career came crashing down, like a meteor in the night sky.
As he stood at the senior center in Brooklyn, where his political career began, it was as though he were delivering a eulogy for himself. He was solemn and sad.
At 27, he was elected to the City Council, the youngest person ever to serve in that body. In the years since, as he went up the political ladder, he won praise for his work and irrepressible energy from diverse sources.
As his web site proudly points out: New York Magazine called him “an ascendant force in New York politics.” The Daily News called him one of the “Leaders of the 21st Century.” PoliticsNY gave him its top rating. In 2005 he ran for mayor and the New York Post said “Weiner represents the new persona of the Democratic party.” Newsday said he was setting “a new political paradigm” and the Times called him “the wonk of the campaign.”
After winning enough votes to force a Democratic runoff in 2005, Weiner backed out of the mayoral race for the sake of party unity, allowing Fernando Ferrer a clear field.
And now he’s been shoved out of his congressional seat, and likely out of the next mayoral race by the leader of his party, Nancy Pelosi, and an army of powerful Democrats in Washington.
“There is no higher honor in a democracy than being sent by your neighbors to represent them in the United States House of Representatives,” Weiner declared in his resignation statement.
Conversely, it could be said that there’s no greater dishonor than being pushed out of the House by your own party.
What a strange trajectory Weiner’s career has followed. He could almost taste the fruits of victory in the 2013 mayoral election -- and now this – downfall and disgrace. And what caused it? Hubris and whatever medical or psychological problems are discovered in his rehab treatment? These are questions only Weiner and his family can confront in the months ahead.
But, for the rest of us, there are some new lessons. We live in a new age. In this era of 24-hour news cycles, a scandal can’t be confined to a politician’s home town. It travels at flank speed across the internet. Scandals are international. Instantaneously, people around the world are immersed in whatever dishonors us or our political leaders.
A political consultant, Hank Sheinkopf, told me that “it appears that the only way to get people’s attention is by spreading the news of scandal. This scandal and others, before and after, take over our lives. Why did the president get involved? Because, undoubtedly, he and his advisers perceive that this scandal can resonate and affect even a presidential election 18 months from now."
Perhaps it won’t be the meek that shall inherit the earth. But, rather, the boring and stupid. They could get the major political jobs and the party bosses could sleep soundly, knowing they are safe from embarrassment.