Friday, March 5, 2010

Democracy and Character: Political Musings Before the Weekend






Daily News reports on a poll that shows that Governor Patterson's public support is in "freefall" as fewer than half of New Yorkers want him to finish out his term.

At the same time, an article on "Journal of the Plague Year" a book about the administration and resignation of former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, by his long-time aide and friend Lloyd Constantine:

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/2010/03/05/2010-03-05_eliot_spitzer_book.html

In the Constantine book, he notes that he and the Governor's wife, Silda Spitzer, were the only members of the inner circle who advised Mr. Spitzer not to resign, to sit out the conflict and turmoil, and not leave office unless legally compelled.

The issue with all of the above, with David Patterson as with Mr. Spitzer and for that matter Congresman Charles Rangel, seems to be a fundamental one: the meaning of democracy and elections.

We are in an era of billionaires and millionaires self-financing their campaigns at every level. Then again, elected officials are being driven from office by the pressures created by media and internet coverage of personal and political crises.  Although Gov. Patterson is presented as heedless of the public outcry, and while he may well be guilty of  applying pressure on a victim of domestic violence to avoid the political fallout, his guilt has not yet been formally proven or documented and neither he has been indicted or charged with any crime.

Arguably, from a pragmatic level, Mr. Spitzer may have been unable to continue to manage his administration  with the news cycle insanity and folly that followed his being exposed as "Client 9."  Nevertheless, that 21st century nexus of money and media seems to have reached its apotheosis. Just as the democratic freedoms we enjoy likely do make us easier targets to the terrorists, enemies and criminals who seek to undermine and destroy us, is it also likely that our first amendment freedoms are undermining our electoral system?  It is a complex, enigmatic problem, perhaps as further reflected in the Supreme Court's recent endorsement of the loosening of corporate contributions and funding of political campaigns.  The daily countdown and newspaper headlines fit in so neatly with the movement of the 24 hour newscycle. Sure, State Senator Hiram Montserrat held out and was removed from office. But aside from his apparent personal demons and malfeasance, he does have the gumption to re-run for his vacated seat, let democracy sort it out. Whether Gov. Patterson will be the next NYS official to weather the pressures of the media onslaught, and await the outcome of the investigation before resigning, despite the pressure, remains to be seen. You can't get on an elevator in this town without someone musing on "will he resign today?"

But think about it from a constitutional perspective: having the fortitude to remain in office, despite the headlines, the blogs and mainstream media coverage, and awaiting the outcome of an investigation, even knowing that the outcome may be eventual resignation or impeachment anyway? That might be a real display of character.

-Brooklyn Beat

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