Personal Shame ≠ Refutation of Policies

Many people are taking what I think is a perverse pleasure in Eliot Spitzer’s downfall. When pointing out the irony of Spitzer’s role as an anti-corruption crusader, they are using the term “clean up Wall Street” and putting air quotes around “clean up” — as if his visiting prostitutes means there’s no fraud or deceptive practices on Wall Street!

One person commented on my other blog that he “loved” watching Spitzer “crash and burn” — a sentiment echoed by a number of my conservative friends. I most definitely didn’t love it. I was deeply saddened that one of the apparent bright spots in our political landscape turned out to be just that: an “apparent” bright spot. He was unable to build coalitions, he became mired in scandals like “trooper gate” — and now this — this was not the governor New Yorkers thought they elected.

For me, there’s no joy in watching the death of so many people’s hopes that integrity would be restored to government, that transparency and accountability would be demanded of corporations, that corruption would be attacked everywhere. These are the things that people saw and admired in the Eliot Spitzer they thought they knew.

One of the most disheartening aspects of this scandal is that Spitzer’s long-time detractors are treating it as a vindication of their policy disputes with him.

Let’s please remember what happened and what didn’t.

What happened: a man was disgraced and a family dragged through enormous public humiliation and a state full of people deeply disillusioned in their civic hopes.

What didn’t happen: nothing about any policy that Spitzer advocated (that many, many New Yorkers supported) was discredited in any way. In fact, I think recent events have made it painfully clear that Wall Street really could use a good Sheriff.

Ideological Burnout; Ribbon-Shaped Sticker

Its shape is perfectly intact on the bumper. No peeling or fraying visible at all. But the weatherworn ribbon is faded to an almost perfectly colorless dull white, perhaps a hint of gray.

Maybe it was once a splash of rainbow colors, joyfully celebrating diversity, or a bold, brilliant yellow, defiantly believing that soon all the troops will be safely home. Or maybe, in its heyday it was a soft pink –holding out the hope of curing a disease or a hatred of other people’s love lives– blushing at its own daring optimism.

Now it just has the unmistakable shape and pallor of having once cared.