In a grim election year, the Republicans can at least take solace in the fact that they didnâ€™t lose to a guy who was caught with $90,000 in his freezer. With the defeat of William Jefferson of Louisiana, Republican Anh â€œJosephâ€ Cao has proven that even amidst a Democratic sweep and even in a heavily Democratic district, voters will punish corruption.
Minority Leader John Boehner is even using the Cao victory as a roadmap to future Republican success. While itâ€™s unlikely that too many more Democrats will be as brazenly corrupt as was Jefferson, make no mistake that there will be Dems who succumb to the temptations of power. And there are already a few old-school, powerful Democrats who possesses questionable ethics (see: John â€œAbscamâ€ Murtha and the current investigation of Charlie Rangel).
Boehner is on to something when he encourages his Republican colleagues to stand up to corruption and deliver a positive rather than cynical message. Of course, it will take awhile to erase from the publicâ€™s memory the Republicanâ€™s own tenure of corruption. But that doesnâ€™t mean the Republicans left standing canâ€™t, over time, reshape themselves into a minority party capable of standing up to the excesses of the ruling party.
Democrats, for their part, have to be vigilant against corruption in their midst. Senate and House leaders canâ€™t coddle their ethically challenged members or downplay the seriousness of corruption. As Caoâ€™s victory proves, voters will not long abide by leaders who abuse their power — no matter what letter comes after their name.