Congressional elections sort out the wheat from the chaff. True leaders respond to the pressure of campaigning by rising above the level of crass politicking and popular gimmicks to stand for what's right, inspiring voters to join them in the effort to make things better. Weak-minded politicians who cannot muster the courage or creativity necessary to make such a stand appeal instead to cheap, crowd-pleasing gestures that turn voters on without requiring them to think.
Here in the 24th congressional district of New York State, we have been stuck with a couple of big pieces of chaff this year, weak-minded politicians so obsessed with pleasing voters that they have descended into pandering to us.
Take flag burning, for example. Both Ray Meier and Michael Arcuri have come out in opposition to it. But, is it a meaningful issue? Have we got a rash of flag burnings going on here in the 24th district? Can anyone remember the last time that someone burned a flag here? Would we really want to make it a crime to engage in that kind of protest, and if so, what other forms of protest should we criminalize? Flag burning isn't so much an issue as it is an opportunity for Michael Arcuri and Ray Meier to appeal to the bigoted resentment of the expression of unpopular ideas.
The pandering gets more serious when it comes to the death penalty, however. Both Ray Meier and Michael Arcuri have campaigned as strong supporters of the death penalty. That's a popular position to take. It makes a lot of people happy to think of bad guys getting killed as punishment for their crimes.
The problem is that the death penalty is nothing but a crowd-pleasing gimmick. It isn't a serious policy.
Thanks to the pandering of Republican politicians in Albany, we had the death penalty in New York State for many years. But, during all that time, not a single person was actually executed. The last execution of a person in New York State was in 1963. Then, you have to back another 19 years to get the last execution before that. Although there was a death penalty in effect for most of the 20th century in New York State, only 8 people were executed during that time.
The reason for this tiny number of executions is that the death penalty just doesn't work. The legal apparatus of the death penalty has never really been worked out, and the result is that either hardly anyone is ever executed, or too many people, including a lot of innocent people, are put to death. The recent DNA proof of large numbers of innocent people put on death row ought to give any thinking person serious doubts about the death penalty.
Of course, Ray Meier and Michael Arcuri haven't shown themselves to be thinking people this year. They're politicians out pandering for votes.
Mike Arcuri and Ray Meier support the death penalty, not because the death penalty would do a thing to make our lives better here in New York, but because they want to create the impression that they're tough guys.
Tough guys are the last thing we need in Congress right now. We need smart guys, and guys with integrity. We need leaders who have the capacity to grow into statesmen.
We here in the 24th district won't what we need this year. Go out and vote today. Voting is important. Just don't have any illusions about the race for the House of Representatives. This year, you'll only have the opportunity to pick your particular preference of pander.
Just close your eyes and think of 2008.