Suspected of forging foreign checks. Worked at an alleged Ponzi scheme for years. Lied that his mother died of 9/11-related causes. Supposedly started a dog shelter charity, with no IRS record. Starred in Disney Channel shows like Hannah Montana and The Suite Life of Zack and Cody.
No, this isn’t a plotline of Veep, nor the lies an attention-seeking middle-schooler is spouting off in the school bus.
It is just a handful of the extensive scandals which George Santos is entangled in.
George Santos, as in a current sitting Congressman in the US House of Representatives. Inaugurated this year as a freshman Congressman, Santos has certainly created waves in the halls of the Capitol. The Republican candidate, hailing from New York City (allegedly), won the 3rd Congressional District Election with 54% of the vote this past November. Secrets from his past started to seep through the seams, as investigative reports picked up on his shaky history.
At first, as headlines came out about this bizarre man, it was funny. Who makes this stuff up? I mean, the Disney stuff is just plain absurd. But the allegations started to become more illegal and less whimsy, and the curiosity about him turned to calls to resign from his constituents. Campaign finance laws seem to have been skirted and he has since stepped down from his two committee positions. Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy has announced that if he is found to have done anything implicitly illegal, he will be removed.
All of that leaves me with the question… where did we go wrong? What happened to the “party of Common Sense”? How are we singing McCarthy’s praises for promising to do the bare minimum? Even beyond that, I have trouble seeing this as an institutional partisan issue. It seems to be the modus operandi for virtually all politicians in Washington, no matter party affiliation. Just as easily could I imagine Democrats digging their heels in for an unfit member.
As many talking pundits cherry-pick and blame one election or leader for the normalization of the politically absurd, there can’t be just one catalyst. Instead, this lack of trust in party organizations has slowly been building in the US for decades. The phenomenon is interesting – have we just gotten used to democratic backsliding? Why are we not outraged? Why do we not care?
We really should. With every scandal that hits the legislative branch, public distrust is bound to grow. And with that comes a true danger. When the vox populi flips, there comes the risk that they look to other sources for that same sense of security that the government should provide. Two years ago, we saw a disenchanted group storm the Capitol because they were galvanized by leaders who similarly did not honor the paramountcy of elected officials. A liar-turned-congressman is similarly eroding public trust.
All this doom and gloom based on just one congressman with a pathological lying problem? Yes.
Because he stands for the systemic failure of the electoral system in the US. The threat of public trust in the US being completely gone is distant, but nevertheless present. His term stands for the unethical behavior that bolsters skepticism of institutions. It’s naive to view it as a partisan issue – it’s a real threat to American democracy. If leaders really want to gain the people’s confidence again, they will restore the sanctity of the office. A good way to start? Oust George Santos.
Featured image: https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2023/01/george-santos-worst-lies