Redemption, as defined by Dictionary.com, includes “deliverance; rescue. “ With a backdrop of signs that included that very word, Mel Reynolds announced his intention to run for Jesse Jackson Jr.’s vacant seat. I have to ask, who’s going to rescue the voters of the 2nd District of Chicago? If they consider reelecting this man, I fear they’re beyond redemption.
Political newbies may not remember Mel Reynolds. He led the 2nd district from 1993 to 1995.
He resigned after being convicted on several charges including 12 counts of sexual assault, obstruction of justice and solicitation of child pornography. All of this after he had a sexual relationship with a 16 year-old campaign volunteer. While in prison, he was also convicted of bank fraud and lying to SEC investigators. It was this sentence that President Clinton commuted in 2001, before leaving office. (For fans of irony, he worked with the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and Jesse Jackson after the Clinton commutation. It’s like Six Degrees of Sexual Impropriety).
It would be sad if not for the fact that Reynolds has a real chance of being elected. Jesse Jackson Jr. didn’t even campaign and he was easily reelected. Even as he was dodging a steady stream of political and federal investigations, he managed over 60% of the vote. I so badly wanted to give voters the benefit of the doubt there, but you know what they say. Fool me once…
To be fair, Chicago isn’t the only area of the country with an incredible ability to forgive (or inability to understand who they’re voting for). Detroit area voters elected Brian Banks to the 1st District House seat in November. He handily defeated his Republican opponent, even with the public’s knowledge of his criminal background, including convictions for credit card fraud and writing bad checks. He claims to have turned his life around in the eight years since, though a judgment against him and an eviction for failure to pay rent in October of this year seem to say otherwise.
In New Hampshire, the voters seemed so concerned with electing the state’s first transgender candidate that they failed to properly vet “Stacie” Laughton. It seems “Stacie” pleaded guilty four years ago to credit card fraud. (I’m sensing a shocking trend here). Barry Charles Laughton admitted he also slashed someone’s tires and pretended to be sick to get an ambulance ride. That none of this came out during the election tells me the media clearly didn’t do its job. (That’s not really shocking either). New Hampshire state law bars him from even running for office until he’s completed ALL aspects of his sentence, which he hasn’t. As of this writing, Mr. Laughton went from doing the right thing by resigning to denying reality by rescinding said resignation. I suppose expecting a convicted felon to make the moral choice is a bridge too far.
It would be easy to blame the vetting process for some of this. But even the media’s lack of interest in vetting candidates doesn’t stop voters from electing criminals to office again and again. Areas like Detroit, Chicago, and Washington DC are well-versed in this very practice. Why? Are we so lacking in qualified candidates in these areas that we must rely on the Kwame Kilpatricks and Marion Barrys of the world? What blinds voters? Is it a willingness to forgive and forget? Is it out of a sense of redemption that we continue to shoot ourselves in the foot?
Maybe I should be thanking Mr. Reynolds. At least we won’t be bogged down in investigations if he is elected. As one Chicago Tribune reader noted, “He comes pre-convicted.”
Image: Mel Reynolds; courtesy of: Black Americans in Congress. Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives; public domain
Lower Image: Brian Banks official campaign website; http://bankonbanks4staterep.com/