The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Monday, Dec. 4, 2023 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

Column: When it comes to politician accountability, the bar is in hell


DTH Photo Illustration. Jeff Jackson (D-N.C. 14th) using his TikTok platform to advertise his campaign and inform viewers about politics.

It should be a no-brainer to be against corruption, but apparently, this is not the case in Washington. 

Sadly, but unsurprisingly, the recent indictment of Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) seems to be a rare case of politicians having a spine.

The indictment documents, released Sept. 22, include photographs of alleged bribes that were recovered in the Menendez house. Amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars, these include cash, bars of gold and a luxury convertible.

Menendez, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, allegedly took the bribes. In exchange, prosecutors say the senator abused his position on the committee to aid the Egyptian government in forms of economic support and arms. Menendez and his wife pleaded not guilty on Sept. 27. 

Menendez’s alleged crimes can be compared to those of Rep. George Santos (R-NY, 3rd), where his Republican colleagues remained relatively silent about his charges for fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds and false statements. In their silence, they’re damaging their party’s reputation.

The case against Menendez obviously has similar repercussions for the Democratic Party – most notably, Menendez’s felony charges reflect poorly on the party’s integrity as a whole. Since the shocking release of the indictments, all eyes are on Democrats in Congress to see how they will respond to their colleague’s alleged actions.

Some have taken to social media to comment on the situation. Rep. Jeff Jackson (D-NC 14th) took to TikTok, explaining the situation to his 2.3 million followers.

“I don’t know what a jury is going to do, but I know what I’m going to do looking at this evidence – I’m going to ask him to step down,” he said on the social media app. “For something like this, party doesn’t matter. We all deserve better treatment than this as citizens, and we should insist on it.” 

The comments praised Jackson for this take. 

“Jeff – you are a breath of fresh air,” one viewer commented. “I appreciate your thoughts and truthfulness on this and holding people accountable.” 

Another commented, “I’m not normally a fan of politicians (or democrats, frankly), but I respect you immensely for this take.”

Similar to Jackson, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, (D-NY, 14th) called on Menendez to resign. 

“The situation is quite unfortunate but I do believe that it is in the best interest for Senator Menendez to resign in this moment,” she told CBS News. “It shouldn’t matter whether it’s a Republican or a Democrat. The details in this indictment are extremely serious; they involve the nature of not just his, but all of our seats in Congress.”

Once again, the comments expressed support for Ocasio-Cortez. 

“It’s refreshing seeing a party actually stand up to corrupt politicians. Take note GOP,” one comment read.

Frankly, these reactions are just sad. They’re a testament to the rarity of accountability in our government. Politicians like Jackson and Ocasio-Cortez calling out corruption are right, but they shouldn’t be commended for doing so when it's just basic integrity. 

Speaking out against an act as egregious as what Menendez was charged with should be the standard, not the exception. But we are clearly at a point where these simple acts receive an uproar of praise.

Corruption should not have party lines. It is understandable that members of a party want to be a united front, but unethical and illegal acts should disband party loyalty without a second thought. Hyperpartisanship drives the actions of most politicians, even to the point where accountability is uncommon. They’re so wrapped up in winning the war against the other party that their morals are pushed aside.

Let’s raise our standards – by a lot. We should not be giving politicians a pat on the back for doing the bare minimum. Save that energy for when they pass important legislation or finally agree on a budget. But calling out corruption? That shouldn’t cause anyone to throw a celebration when they’re just, you know, doing their jobs.


@dthopinion |

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.