By Osmund Agbo
George Santos, a 34 year-old gay man and an American Jew whose maternal grandparents were Holocaust survivors that fled Soviet Ukraine is a freshman congressman in the United States House of Representatives. George was born on July 22, 1988 to Fatima Aziza Caruso Horta Devolder, a housekeeper and Gercino Antonio dos Santos Jr., both of whom are Brazilian immigrants. Coming from a modest background, George saw himself through college, graduated and went on to build a successful career in Wall Street that listed both Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. He also started and managed many successful businesses before contesting and winning a U.S. congressional seat to represent New York’s 3rd district.
The resume posted above is without doubt super impressive and casts George Santos as the poster-child of the fabled American dream. Except that he is hardly any of those. In fact, he is a big lie. George is a fugitive con artist and his resume was not just padded but totally fabricated to suit whatever he wanted to sell. George Santos the congressman, had on one occasion introduced himself to a group as Anthony Devolder, a man who formed another group, united for Trump.
When the New York Times broke the story, exposing this fraud, it was jarring. The man is not Jewish (he later claimed he meant Jew-ish) neither graduated college nor worked with Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. Harbor City Capital, a Florida-based “alternative investment firm” he had worked for, has been the subject of a civil suit by the US Security and Exchange Commission, accusing the company of running a $17 million Ponzi scheme. In the past, he had confessed to committing cheque fraud in Brazil in 2008 but failed to appear in court, leaving the case unresolved. In the wake of his recent election, Brazilian authorities are reviewing his case.
Six weeks after his election, numerous news outlets reported that large parts of his self-published biography appear to be fabricated, including claims about his ancestry, education, employment, charity work, property ownership, and crimes of which he claimed to be a victim. Yet, George Santos refused to resign his position and was sworn in last week. The newly inaugurated house leadership led by Republicans
even rewarded him with Committee assignments. George is now serving in the Small Business and the Science, Space and Technology Committees.
The new House Speaker, Mr. Kevin McCarthy, once described to CNN how he always had few questions regarding Mr. Santos’s background and the fact that a Santos aide was caught impersonating his chief of staff while soliciting campaign donations. Calls by both House Democrats and some G.O.P. congressmen for his resignation, was not enough to dissuade the House leadership from giving Santos a committee assignment. The speaker insisted that any potential wrongdoing needed to be investigated by the House Ethics Committee, defending his action with the argument that Mr. Santos was duly elected by his constituents. Speaker Kevin McCarthy, backed by a razor-thin majority that includes a faction threatening his leadership, was not prepared to lose the support of any member of his caucus, no matter how morally or criminally compromised.
For a long time, American democracy, as imperfect as it is, has been a beacon of hope and aspiration to many other good democracies around the world. A place where those that aspire to public office are carefully scrutinised both in their public and private lives. Those who fall short or were “ousted” for whatever reason would resign. Failure to do so in the past would attract heavy backlash and result in gross condemnation by both sides of the isles in the political spectrum. But not anymore. America has gradually been sliding into a nation of anything goes.
Over the years, there has been a gradual but steady erosion of values in the American political and civil space for quite some time now. It started even before Trump but his entry into partisan politics for sure took it to a level never seen before. Donald Trump, a man universally acknowledged as a morally bankrupt and ignorant candidate, was propelled beyond his wildest dream by the American far-right for what they believe he could help them achieve. In doing so, this Bible-hugging segment of American society fully endorsed the Machiavellian creed of the end justifies the means. A candidate’s moral standing no longer matters in Trump’s America to the extent that such an individual is willing and able to demonstrate readiness to fight for the issues they care about.
Thanks to Donald Trump, white supremacist groups like Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and Neo-Nazis that used to belong in the fringes are gradually becoming mainstream. Their leaders are hailed as American heroes and First Amendment champions by many in the political right. People like Roy Moore, accused by several women of sexual abuse including in cases involving minors, were endorsed by Trump and went on to emerge as Republican Party candidates for election, Trump himself is still fighting in the courts till this day, with countless women suing him for sexual abuse. It has now become customary for Trump-backed candidates not to accept electoral defeat but would instead declare an election rigged. The list is endless.
The problem with accommodating these immoral and sometimes frankly illegal behaviors goes beyond one particular egregious act committed. The bigger problem is that it sets the moral tone in the society and defines the limit of what is acceptable or not. Trump lost an election and encouraged his followers to launch an insurrection on the US Capitol that caused loss of lives, destroyed properties and desecrated one of America’s most hallowed spaces. Americans are today wringing their hands and watching to see if the man will ever face Justice. Meanwhile, in faraway Brazil, Trump’s action inspired supporters of another man who lost an election. Unhappy about the loss of the former President, Jair Bolsorano, a man referred to as Brazil’s Trump, his sympathisers invaded the Planalto Presidential Palace while clashing with security forces. These things create ripple effects especially if it’s originating from America.
In America today, Islamophobia, racism, misogyny, xenophobia are on the rise. Paraphrasing the words of some wise fellow, Islamophobia doesn’t just disparage Muslims, racism doesn’t demean blacks alone, and misogyny hurts men and women, xenophobia insults more than immigrants. As decent human beings, we are all diminished and so collectively have a stake in designing the type of society we want.
Without the United States standing as a bulwark for global democracy, illiberal powers like Russia and China will take the center stage and become the model of a new international order. Despite all her imperfections, the world still needs a strong, democratic America that projects positive images and values leading the way. America needs to find its way back to the moral scale in order to save itself and the rest of us.
Osmund Agbo writes from Houston, Texas. Email: Eagleosmund@yahoo.com