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Silver Lining to the Recent New York Political Scandals: Lesson to youth in government and politics

The past two weeks have brought a dark time throughout the political landscape of our great state of New York. For several weeks already, rumors of a looming “bombshell” had been swirling around embattled Governor David Paterson. Discussions of his personal and marital life were the topic of the rumored “bombshell” but it later came to light that Governor Paterson himself, was not necessarily the center of the story. The New York Times’ story regarding Paterson aide David Johnson was the beginning of the end of Governor Paterson’s bid for election in 2010. As more and more details are becoming public, the already negative perception of the Governor is growing worse and worse. Elected officials throughout New York have called for his resignation due to the pending probe by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s office and the potential that it could force the Governor and his staff to spend significant time with their heads in other issues. This would cause New York to see our third Governor this term alone.

On Wednesday, March 3, Governor Paterson was forced again to try and dodge another scandal; this time from the NYS Commission on Public Integrity (ironically a body that the Governor recently tried to expel) came an accusation that the Governor accepted free World Series tickets at Yankee Stadium. This same day, iconic Congressman Charlie Rangel, who, much like Paterson, had been embattled for a long time, was forced to temporarily step down as Chairman of the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee, the most influential tax policy writing committee in Congress. Later the same day, Congressman Eric Massa announced that he would not seek a second term in office due to health reasons. However, the same day Politico reported that the House Ethics Committee was looking into an accusation of sexual harassment with a male staffer of Massa’s and he has since apologized for unnamed “indiscretions.” The events of this past week come on the heels of the expulsion of Democratic State Senator Hiram Monserrate, who was convicted of misdemeanor assault after dragging his girlfriend through his building, which was after allegedly slashing her in the face with a broken beer bottle. New York has certainly seen its fair share of scandal recently and this is without even a mention of former Governor Eliot Spitzer. Obviously, the common link among all of these elected officials is their party affiliation; all Democrats.

The morning after that miserable day of March 3, I woke up discouraged to be a resident of New York and certainly to be a political participant in the same arena as these individuals. After a brief period down in the dumps, I realized that I have a unique opportunity and perspective towards these scandals; an opportunity to observe and learn from the mistakes that were made by those who came before me. The commonality of party between these elected officials and myself is not the center issue of these recent scandals. I could rattle off several scandals that have plagued Republican elected officials both in New York (Joseph Bruno) and nationally (John Ensign and Mark Sanford). However, the lesson I have drawn from the recent events is to live above these scandals and not involve myself in the partisan mudslinging that inevitably will ensue in November. These scandals do not and should not symbolize one party’s ability to govern more effectively over another but rather demonstrate that we need to examine the character of our candidates more thoroughly; something that in-turn will produce better role models to educate young politicos such as myself.

Once again, young adults in government and politics are in a unique position to evaluate and hopefully one-day change the political landscape locally, statewide and nationally. As someone who learned a tremendous amount from the troubles of these individuals, I am able to make a pledge that I will NOT campaign on the perceived inabilities of my opponent, simply because they are of a different party; that I WILL campaign on the issues, strengths and merits of the candidates that I am supporting; and that I WILL campaign for candidates that I feel represent the best of my neighborhood, my state, and my country. A pledge that I hope my collegiate colleagues will agree to and a lesson that I hope will be taught TO those who came before us.

Ian Rivera is currently a Senior at St. John's University and the President of the College Democrats of NY