LONSBERRY: Schneiderman Is A Symptom

But didn’t we always know he was a nasty, vindictive bastard?

Wasn’t that just the spirit of the man?

Can we truly claim surprise to hear that he beat and denigrated women, and took pleasure from humiliating them sexually?

Eric Schneiderman was always a monster, yesterday we just found out what kind.

And his fall raises a question for New York voters and political parties: Why can’t we elect good people?

Without regard to their politics or priorities, why can’t we find and elect people of decency and principle? Is the system in our state so tipped to the avaricious and ruthless that we eliminate any chance of electing people – Democrat or Republican, progressive or conservative – who are good in their hearts?

In our lives, many of the people we encounter are kind and courteous, inclined to do good and be honorable. They were raised right and live well and are a blessing to the people around them, living lives of integrity and service.

But why are such people almost never found at the top levels of New York government, and why is it so easy for us to make long lists of powerful New York politicians who have fallen into disgrace for their dishonorable or illegal behavior?

In New York, when it comes to picking leaders, we are getting it wrong.

Eric Schneiderman is more the rule than the exception. 

And that’s not about Republicans and Democrats, or even upstate and downstate. It seems that the scum rises to the top, election after election, year after year. We are accustomed to trials and convictions, press conferences and resignations. 

And the condemnations of today’s fallen tyrant typically comes from the mouths of tomorrow’s fallen tyrants. The outrage and indignation are loudest among those who may one day spark their own outrage and indignation. While Eric Schneiderman was making political hay by pretending to champion the cause of women sexually abused in the workplace, he was himself slapping and spitting upon a woman – calling her his slave – and demanding that she submit to his advances and find him another sexual partner. 

Credible accusations – which he confirmed by resigning three hours after they became public – claim that he abused alcohol and abused women, violently striking them across the face without consent and without warning. His were relationships of brutality, domination and humiliation in which he was almighty and others were to be disregarded and oppressed.

And that is an echo of his public conduct, and the conduct of other state lawmakers – from the imperiousness of our current governor to the autocratic nature of the former Assembly speaker. The spirit of Eric Schneiderman is the spirit of New York politics.

Repeating for emphasis: The spirit of Eric Schneiderman is the spirit of New York politics.

And that’s where a true change of heart must take place.

It’s easy to throw Schneiderman into the carcass pile of disgraced New York politicians, and to quickly begin the deal making and throat cutting that will select his replacement. But the real chore, the only thing that will break the cycle, is to change the ethic and embrace a new paradigm.

One in which both parties embrace basic goodness. One in which the first qualification for office is to simply be a good person. A person who is honest, selfless, values based and committed to treating others the way he would himself want to be treated. It’s not hard to find such people, they are all around us.

But they seldom lead us.

Especially in this state.

“When the righteous are in authority,” King Solomon taught, “the people rejoice.

“But when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.”

And there is low voter turnout, and cynicism, and a despair of decency and good government. And the steady chain of controversies – from retrials to resignations – renders the sacred right to vote and live in a Republic valueless and trifling. 

Eric Schneiderman is not the problem, he is the symptom – like so many before him.

The problem is a culture of New York politics that is immoral and unpatriotic, in which ruthlessness and intrigue are rewarded and it is better to win than to do what is right. It is a culture which corrupts both parties and pollutes the entire state.

And it is business as usual in New York.

And all the departure of Eric Schneiderman does is clear the way for the next nasty, vindictive bastard to rise.


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