After the latest round of lewd revelations, it seems like just about everyone in New York City is urging Anthony Weiner to drop his quixotic quest for mayor. But though his chances of capturing City Hall seem to be getting slimmer with each withering news cycle, the man simply needs to stay in the race. Not for himself, but for us.
Forget, for a second, the several capable candidates he's running against. Nevermind, while we're at it, the disapproving editorial voices of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Daily News and, not to be forgotten, Alec Baldwin. Of course, they all have a point: the man is an embarrassment, a walking joke — and a liar. His moronic behavior distracts from the issues New York City voters actually care about: jobs, crime, schools, bike lanes. Trusting him with City Hall would be like handing a pyromaniac a blowtorch.
Amen to all that. But if we truly want Weiner gone from the political scene, he needs to suffer the electoral drubbing that awaits him in the Sept. 10 primary.
We can understand the desire for Weiner to simply disappear, for the news cycle to be free of this serial sexter. But if he were to drop out now, it may only be a temorary relief, setting up the inevitable rehabilitation further down the road, once this summer of Weiner-dom concludes. He already has the playbook. People have short memories, after all. Just look at Eliot Spitzer, gunning for the city comptroller's office despite having committed acts that are illegal, not just plain dumb.
No, Weiner must be made to feel the sting of total rejection.
Remember what happened the last time Weiner's penis was splashed all over the Web? He resigned from Congress — driven from office by neither voters nor his peers on Capitol Hill. Instead, he simply bolted red in the face. But his doing so actually gave people plenty of room to argue he was still a viable politician. A miserable showing in the September 10 primary — say, a finish behind no-name candidate Sal Albanese — would forever end talk of his rehabilitation. We would never have to hear of Anthony Weiner again. No more junk shots; no more apologies.
Weiner has made it very clear that he pays close attention to what the voters think about him. He told The Times back in April that he got into sexting because the Internet was such a perfect tool for figuring out precisely what people want to hear:
"I was in a world and a profession that had me wanting people’s approval. By definition, when you are a politician, you want people to like you, you want people to respond to what you’re doing, you want to learn what they want to hear so you can say it to them."
Those who want Weiner to let go of his political ambitions should not urge him to quit. If he quits, he can still claim that he's undefeated — just like Sarah Palin did. Anthony Weiner cannot be silenced unless he's actually spurned at the ballot box. So let him stay for now, New York. And in September, tell him what he needs to hear.