John Conyers, the longest-serving member of Congress, faces multiple allegations of sexual harassment. He announced Tuesday that he will resign immediately. After resisting calls to step down – mostly from members of his own party – the Michigan Democrat, who has served 27 terms in the House of Representatives, revealed his decision during a radio interview from his hospital bed. Conyers had become an embarrassment to his party colleagues and leaders as well as to the legislative branch as a whole.
Speaking to Detroit radio show host Mildred Gaddis, Conyers, who represents Michigan’s 13th Congressional District, said he would retire Tuesday and added that would be endorsing his son, John Conyers III, to replace him in the House. According to a report from Click On Detroit, the congressman stated: “My legacy can’t be compromised or diminished in any way by what we’re going through now.” The assertion demonstrates his remarkably tone-deaf attitude towards his critics. Conyers, it appears, still considers himself above reproach.
The Hubris of Public Office
The congressman went on to claim that his legacy “will continue through my children. I have a great family here, and especially my oldest boy John Conyers III, who incidentally I endorse to replace me in Congress.” The hubris with which this ultimate career politician conducted himself is a big part of the disdain Americans have for politicians. No doubt, Conyers had come to believe that his seat rightfully belonged to him.
At 88-years-old, Conyers is revered by congressional Democrats for his 51 years of service, his participation in the civil rights movement, and his role in the founding of the Congressional Black Caucus. For that reason, he may even have survived the allegations against him and the looming ethics investigation. However, the revelation that he had used money from his office budget to settle one of the claims against him was, likely, the nail in the coffin of his political career.
Defiant in the face of recent sexual harassment allegations, Conyers initially had no intention of leaving Congress. The House Ethics Committee announced November 21 that it would open an investigation into Conyers’ conduct. Under increasing pressure, he relinquished his position of ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee On November 26. Days later, he was hospitalized for what was said to be a stress-related illness.
Even as Democratic leaders, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, finally pushed him to resign, Conyers appeared determined to weather the storm. Speaking to reporters on November 30, his attorney, Arnold Reed, said, “Nancy Pelosi did not elect the congressman, and she sure as hell won’t be the one to tell the congressman to leave.”
The seat Conyers is vacating is a safe one for Democrats, of course. Despite the retiring congressman’s personal wishes, a number of Michigan Democrats may fight to be his successor, the report from Click On Detroit suggests. Aside from John Conyers III, another possible contender is the congressman’s nephew, Michigan state Senator Ian Conyers. Will the now tarnished Conyers name turn Michiganders away, or will long-time loyalty prevail to put another Conyers in Congress? This question remains to be answered.