By Joe Badalamenti
It seems that there is yet another scandal in DC. Florida Representative Matt Gaetz has been accused of a flurry of crimes, from prostitution to outright sex trafficking. Allegations on this scale can be career-ending to a politician such as Gaetz, though Representative Gaetz has taken the path of outright denying these allegations, claiming it is the result of a smear campaign by the mainstream media. Are the allegations all astroturf set up by the “fake news” legacy media, or is Matt Gaetz actually engaged in behavior that would make Jeffrey Epstein blush?
In early April, an investigation was launched into Congressman Matt Gaetz by the Justice Department. The investigation concerns whether Representative Gaetz paid minors to travel in order to pursue sexual relations with them. Such actions would violate sex trafficking statutes. The investigation is connected to an older indictment in which Joel Greenberg, a former politician and acquaintance of Gaetz, was accused of similar charges. Investigators have speculated that Greenberg may have introduced Gaetz to this illegal activity, which prompted the investigation. Investigators have also found receipts from online cash processors, such as Venmo, that were sent to various women, which may be related to these events. A week later, another investigation was launched against Gaetz, this time by the House Ethics Committee. The House investigation concerns a number of allegations including illicit drug use, the spread of inappropriate media on the House floor, and conversion of campaign funds for inappropriate use. Matt Gaetz has denied all allegations on the basis that this is part of an extortion plot by political opponents. It’s also important to mention that Matt Gaetz has not been charged with any crimes as of now.
So how screwed is Matt Gaetz? Well, his public reputation has likely been tarnished by these events. These allegations definitely sour Gaetz’s appeal on the left. Then again, Gaetz likely had very little standing with the left due to his rhetoric, as well as his relationship with Trump. In terms of the MAGA-minded right, Gaetz’s reputation will likely stay intact so long as the sex trafficking allegations are not confirmed by the investigations. As for the rest of the right and moderates, this is likely where Gaetz will lose the most ground. While the allegations may not be confirmed, this event has raised awareness of Gaetz’s character, or lack thereof. The information brought to public attention includes the participation of “Creepy Gaetz” in a game where constant sexual escapades can earn participants points. Gaetz’s voting record doesn’t make things look better for him, as he was the only vote in the house against a recent sex trafficking bill. If allegations of sex trafficking aren’t enough to discredit “Baby Gaetz”, then finding out that your politician has the sex life of a college frat boy likely will do so. Then again, considering the speed of the modern-day news cycle, it’s likely that enough of the public will forget about the allegations for Gaetz to persevere in his reelection campaign, or presidential campaign if he so chooses, though the latter may not be likely.
This whole event seems to prompt a conversation about statesmanship in the modern-day. Statesmanship is the ability of one to govern efficiently and effectively. Like many skills, it is not one that a person has intrinsically; rather, it is one that develops over time. There are many traits that one must possess to be a good statesman. A statesman must not only develop a good character but also possess republican virtue and public-spiritedness. It is with these traits that one should choose statesmen or members of our government. However, sometimes politicians are able to get elected through other means. Without a resume of accomplishments and clear demonstrations of good intentions, politicians will often resort to inflammatory and emotional rhetoric in order to motivate their base to vote for them. The problem is that once they take office, they have to govern for an entire term of 2-6 years. Now in office, this politician will continue spewing their rhetoric to maintain the illusion that they’re doing their job. So how is this relevant to Matt Gaetz? Well, not only does he fit this mold, but he even believes that what he does is an example of good government. As he says in his book Firebrand, “It’s impossible to get canceled if you’re on every channel. Why raise money to advertise on the news channels when I can make the news? And if you aren’t making news, you aren’t governing.” While politicians like Gaetz may be unpopular to typical voters, they may still maintain their office so long as they can rally their base.
It’s clear that Matt Gaetz is not an ideal statesman. Regardless of the outcome of the investigations, Matt Gaetz will still be the same improper politician who would rather own the libs than write legislation. While this article may have emphasized Gaetz in particular, he is far from the only politician with these qualities. If we are going to move past the demagogues of the past, we must put our faith in politicians with the qualities of a true statesman.
Thumbnail Attribution: Gage Skidmore from Surprise, AZ, United States of America, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons