I know, a lot has been written about Governor Christie and the fallout from the lane closings on the George Washington Bridge. But I want to open up the discussion a little wider.
Governor Christie has denied repeatedly any knowledge of the plot to punish Mark Sokolich, the mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, for not endorsing him in his reelection campaign.
He continues to call this behavior “unacceptable” a term that I would use for a child refusing to eat vegetables.
The media is focusing on a “smoking gun.” What did Christie know and when did he know it? We will not know that because it appears that his staff has given him plenty of deniability.
But there must have been an atmosphere around Christie and his office that winning is the only thing that matters, that the win has to be absolute, and that everyone has to go along with him. Anyone who disagrees is bad and deserves punishment. The punishment should be cruel and humiliating.
This is an unpleasant and unfortunately pervasive trend in America today. The war on drugs is one good example, with horrifying numbers of young people being arrested and jailed. Schools are starting to see the unpleasant negative effects of zero tolerance policies for some misbehavior. Soldiers are harassed in the service and commit suicide.
Politicians such as Governor Christie like to present themselves as able to reach “across the aisle” to the other party. They get a lot of admiration for that presentation. In Governor Christie’s case there was intimidation across the aisle. I wonder how many democratic politicians in New Jersey would have endorsed Mr Christie if they weren’t afraid of his retaliation? Perhaps not so many.
The responsibility that Governor Christie needs to take does not stop at firing a few people. His responsibility is to examine and change the atmosphere of his political environment. Right now it appears to be “you are with me or else…” His staff took that attitude and ran with it. With or without his knowledge.
We have an atmosphere of intimidation running through our society and our politics, which is painful to see, and embarrassing to live in.