Republicans and Democrats in the state House are calling on Rep. Aaron Bernstine to resign, after Snapchat videos of him surfaced last week.
Among other things, videos depicted Bernstine showing his 5-year-old son how to smoke a cigar — "hit it harder” — and engaging another child in an adult social media game.
Bernstine’s antics should render him unfit for public office, even if calls for his resignation are largely political posturing.
With thousands of ballots bearing Bernstine’s name already mailed, and three weeks to the general election, voters should make the call on whether Bernstine stays or goes.
The decision should be easy.
Running for a third two-year term, Bernstine, a Republican representing parts of Lawrence, Beaver, and Butler Counties, faces Beaver Falls Democrat Kolbe Cole and Johnathan Peffer, a third-party candidate.
Typically, a Republican incumbent in a 10th Legislative District race would cruise to victory. But the debacle over Bernstine, 36, isn’t business-as-usual, even by the subterranean standards of local politics.
In an interview with the editor of the New Castle News and The Herald, Bernstine said he sent the videos as a private communication to a friend — or former friend.
He argued that exposed private communications would taint most people.
“Should I have done it? No.” he said of the Snapchat videos. “But this wasn’t designed to be public. Think about having everything in your cell phone made public. You probably wouldn’t be editor of the paper.”
Fair enough — but Bernstine is smart enough to know any content on social media is at-risk of exposure. Whether he meant the videos for private eyes, subjecting young children to cigar smoking, lewd jokes, and adult games reflects a severe lack of maturity.
Last week, Bernstine apologized for what he has called “poor judgment.” Poor judgment is calling your boss an idiot.
Giving a 5-year-old cigar smoking lessons borders on child abuse.
Bernstine accused his opponents of “trying to exploit personal events during a private family vacation. …The long-term damage done in publicly exploiting my child and his friends for political gain will far outlast the impact of these moments of poor judgment. “
The motives of Bernstine’s critics, however, are irrelevant. They don’t mitigate his reckless behavior.
This isn’t Bernstine’s first step over the edge. In 2017, following protests in St. Louis, Missouri, that blocked roadways, he took to Twitter to suggest he would not stop his car for protesters trying to block his way. Elected officials should keep vicious, off-the-wall ideas like that to themselves.
Stating them publicly is tantamount to encouraging violence.
Yielding to pressure, however, and resigning would enable Bernstine to continue playing the victim, an outsider fighting an entrenched political establishment on behalf of the people.
On Nov. 3, voters can deprive Bernstine of that delusion: Give him the boot.