Melissa Harris-Perry said, on The Rachel Maddow Show, that Anthony Weiner had made a choice to be in a monogamous, heterosexual marriage.
Referring to Mr. Weiner specifically, she may be correct. I don’t know him from Adam; I’ve no right to confirm or deny anything about his marriage because I haven’t got that kind of information.
Referring to Mr. Weiner as a, well, Representative sample, she’s entirely wrong. If we look at the demographics of our elected officials, it turns out that United States politicians generally have two choices when it comes to relationships. They can be single, or they can be involved in a monogamous, heterosexual relationship. Given the hue and cry over the revelation of any other configuration, I am not surprised we have a Congress full of people who are always monogamous and mostly heterosexual. After all, our teenagers still kill themselves over the consequences of their queerness. Why should a professor of politics have to confirm the status quo to the constituents? We as a society are still homophobic. We certainly won’t be ready to accept ethical non-monogamy for a long time yet. Perhaps we’ll get over it within my lifetime. If we don’t, I won’t go to my grave surprised.
At this time, our assortment of QUILTBAG Congresspeople consists of Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), David Cicilline (D-RI), Barney Frank (D-MA), and Jared Polis (D-CO). These are the happy endings: the ones who made it and were able to come out without losing their seats. Mr. Polis in particular was elected while out as gay, apparently a first. In 2009. All four are Democrats; I don’t believe a queer Republican could win an election at this point, in this political climate. Some have managed to keep their jobs in the past, but the number is still small enough that I don’t need to take off my shoes to count them.
Anthony Weiner is the fourth New York politician to become embroiled in a sex scandal since I began voting, and I’m only 25. It hasn’t been that long. Two of those four–Chris Lee and Eric Massa–were policymakers whose decisions directly affected my county and my nearest major city. Massa belonged to my district, New York’s 29th, and Chris Lee was from the by-now-notorious 26th. I live at their junction. I voted for Eliot Spitzer and, frankly, didn’t care that he’d had affairs with prostitutes, but then I wrote a paper arguing in favor of legalization of prostitution and delivered it dressed as a tart. As for Chris Lee, he committed the unpardonable sin of baring his chest on the Internet. Horrors! (Though my mother is speculating that he resigned quickly to avoid a deeper investigation into his private life.)
A sex scandal involving consenting adults isn’t scandalous enough, to me, for anyone to have to sacrifice a perfectly good career. Yes, I apply this across the political board; I may not have agreed with Chris Lee’s politics, but he didn’t need to step down over a piddling bare chest. As for Mr. Weiner, his positive contributions far outweigh his Twitter-powered affairs. What he does on his own time is between himself, his wife, and any other partners he might choose to take. At least he hasn’t misappropriated public funds for his shenanigans. At least he was reasonably sure the people on the other end of the Internet connection were willing and legally able.
There is also the curious case of Mark Sanford, who claimed to love his wife and his Argentinian paramour at the same time. Let’s take him at face value for a minute and consider the repercussions of his “choice”. He was married to one woman; hey, bigamy is still illegal here, and I’m pretty sure it is in Argentina as well. I felt kind of sorry for him. He was a total hypocrite, and he wasted taxpayer money, but I can’t exactly fault him for where his heart lay. He wanted to pursue an option that wasn’t “one woman, one man, forever”. Would his political affiliation have permitted a divorce in the public eye? I doubt the concept of polyamory was ever even presented to him; I have no way of knowing whether it would have helped, but the way he carried on his affair suggested, to me, that somewhere in his heart he was perfectly capable of loving both Jenny Sanford and María Belén Chapur, both at once.
And if I were to run around condemning people for being tragically confused over their personal lives, I’d have to take a good, long look in the mirror.
In all probability, had Anthony Weiner, private citizen, been caught Tweeting his little bird to other women by his wife, the matter would never have become anyone else’s business. Why do we hold our politicians to standards we are unwilling to impose on ourselves? We elect our fellow Americans to speak for us; they are part of “we, the People”, not nobility, not royalty. It is, bluntly, bunk that the House of Representatives even has a rule about embarrassing the House of Representatives. Politicians are human beings. They will make mistakes. The whole point of a bicameral legislature is to ensure that our politicans come from our very flawed, very ordinary populace. Have we forgotten the lessons we should have learned in high school history?
Ladies, gentlemen, and everyone in between or opting out: it was a picture of a penis and a few lewd conversations. It wasn’t a child out of wedlock while his wife was dying of cancer; it wasn’t a teenage boy or a series of teenage boys; he didn’t disappear to another country while he was supposed to be working. This scandal really isn’t, when you think about it, so let’s back the hell off it and go back to dealing with our very real national issues–and let’s leave Mr. Weiner to do the same.