From the Left



May the Second-Best Person Win

Ted Rall on

Only God and Kevin McCarthy know how long George Santos, the disgraced Republican freshman congressman from Long Island whose antipathy for the truth stands out even by politician standards, will be able to remain in office. If and when he is forced to step down, say, after an explanation for his mysteriously improving financial status finally surfaces, I do know how his seat will be filled.

And it's totally unfair.

There'll be a special election. But Robert Zimmerman, the Democrat defeated by Santos in November, won't even be guaranteed a second shot. Party bosses will pick the two candidates like it's 1880 -- of whom Zimmerman may or may not be one.

Zimmerman was cheated. The "George Santos" who beat Zimmerman wasn't a real person or a real candidate. The voters didn't have the information they needed to choose their congressman. They were bedazzled by a fraud, seduced by a chimera. At bare minimum, Zimmerman ought to be guaranteed the Democratic nomination in a special election.

But even that wouldn't be fair to Zimmerman. Why should he have to campaign all over again?

Nor would it be fair to the taxpayers. Each special election costs millions of dollars. Each brings a fresh round of annoying attack ads. And each one requires thousands of voters to cast new ballots. For the sake of simplicity and common sense, let's be done with it. We already have a winner: Robert Zimmerman.


Even after the first-place winner gets disqualified for cheating, second-place finishers in politics are doomed to also-ran status. The most famous example of this type of injustice was the outrage, well-known yet rarely reconsidered, vested upon Sen. George McGovern.

There is no question that President Richard Nixon cheated in 1972. Nixon's goons broke into Democratic National Headquarters to steal McGovern's secret campaign strategies. They burglarized vice presidential candidate Thomas Eagleton's psychiatrist's office and leaked his patient records, forcing McGovern to replace to replace his running mate mid-campaign. McGovern might have lost to Nixon anyway. But he never stood a chance after the Eagleton affair.

Three years later, the country knew Nixon was a crook and a big one at that. The Watergate break-in triggered a series of revelations and scandals that forced Nixon to quit. Justice!

But not really. In most cases, when one contestant cheats his fellow contestant and wins, fairness requires the winner to be stripped of his ill-gotten victory and the person he screwed over to be given the prize instead. Not in politics. Nixon slunk off to rebuild his reputation as an elder statesman. What of McGovern? He got nothing. Dead now, McGovern is still ridiculed for losing to Nixon in a record landslide -- a landslide Nixon stole.


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