As we noted Thursday, a majority of Anthony Weiner's constituents want him to stay in office. The NY1/Marist College poll of 500 New Yorkers showed 56% of the registered voters in New York's 9th Congressional District do not think their member of Congress should resign in the wake of the virtual scandal that's ensnared both Weiner and the media in an infinite loop of hysterical soundbites and bad headlines. On his MSNBC show, Lawrence O'Donnell points to one quote from the New York Daily News editorial: "Weiner's unspeakable behavior has made it impossible for him to represent the people properly." The editorial also declares that "never in the 222 years since the House of Representatives achieved a quorum in 1789 has a seat holder inflicted such an indignity on the institution of American government that most closely represents the people."
O'Donnell quite reasonably asks New Yorker senior editor Hendrik Hertzberg if that figure is quite fair given the number of politicians indicted or jailed while in office. Hertzberg duly reminds us, "Plus all those members of Congress before 1860 who quit and went to the Confederacy." The segment also mentions the poll, and one comes away with the distinct feeling that O'Donnell thinks the media need to back off, now that the people have spoken.
Of course, Lawrence O'Donnell is usually pretty skeptical when it comes to poll numbers and so it's strange to see him take this route. In fact, a different poll from earlier in the week said that half of New Yorkers wanted Weiner to resign.
Really, O'Donnell is just one voice in an emerging chorus of progressive-minded folks asking Weiner to stay put and the media to shut up. As MSNBC covers the hyperbolic commentary, activists on the ground are actually mobilizing efforts to keep Weiner in place. New York progressive organizer Katie Halper wants to pressure congressional Democrats to defend Weiner rather than defect and side with the Republicans on whether or not he should stay in office. She's started a Facebook group in order to gather support for Weiner. The description is cute: "No Weiner, No Peace--Because Weiner is the only Democrat to show some balls!"
Which brings us to the larger point. The reverberating effects of the Weiner scandal and his Democratic colleagues' reaction has provided an opportunity for progressives to steer the conversation towards what many liberals have long viewed as a deeper Democratic failing: gutlessness. "Democrats never stick up for their own, and that's why they get rolled by the Republicans on a consistent basis," MSNBC host Cenk Uygur told Talking Points Memo. "[Democrats turning on Weiner is] part and parcel of the correct impression that the Democratic party is weak and the Republican party is strong."
TPM's Evan McMorris-Santoro notes:
The irony is, progressives at the policy advocacy level never really viewed Weiner as much of an ally. Sure, he was good on TV and great at floor speeches. But when it came to organized progressive policy pushes on Capitol Hill, he was not the man they turned to. But now at least some national progressive leaders are saying Weiner and the Democrats need to stand their ground.
Allowing the Weiner scandal to end his career is "equating hypocritical Republicans with non-hypocritical Democrats," one national progressive leader whose group is staying out of the issue formally and therefore wanted to remain nameless, said. "Republicans are morally sanctimonious, so it makes sense that they would resign."
One thing's for sure: Inevitably, the past week has offered Weiner a lot more exposure. (Pun unavoidable.) Thanks to the torrent of headlines, the congressman has doubled his Twitter followers.