Charlie Rangel, the scandal-plagued 21 term congressman from New York, declared a surprising victory yesterday in the primary for his redrawn House seat. You can read more on CNN HERE.
A couple of years ago, Rangel became a national laughingstock after it was revealed that, despite being the Chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, Rangel had failed to pay income taxes on a Caribbean vacation home and to make other mandatory financial disclosures. He was ultimately censured by the House and forced to give up his chairmanship. Many thought he'd have to resign from the House altogether or, at best, finish out his term in disgrace and never run again.
In high school, I remember reading in American history textbooks about a string of infamous political figures in the 19th and 20th centuries, and wondering how these people managed to hold on to their elected offices for so long, despite being plagued by well known scandals for years at the time.
In my teenaged mind, I simply attributed that to vote rigging. But Charlie Rangel's political survival today suggests that I may have over-estimated the American voter and under-estimated the potent mix of incumbency, political skill, and an almost masochistic willingness to live with public shame and scorn.