Scandal Sheds Light on the Hypocrisy of U.S. Politics

Sean Para, Columnist

As we come back to Oberlin for yet another lovely semester full of friendship, angst, vegans and hipsters, I would like to share with all of you a few reflections on the biggest political scandal of the break, the recently infamous Chris Christie bridge debacle. I think we could all agree with — or if not agree with, at least respect — the idea that Chris Christie is, for lack of a better term, a complete scumbag.

As many politicians seem to be at times, Christie showed himself to be a totally self-interested and soulless politician, with no regard for the people of New Jersey or the public good. And yet, he weathered the scandal successfully, purged the “corrupted” parts of his administration and carried on. I would hope that his political future has ended, that a scandal of such magnitude occurring within his administration would dash any hopes that he could one day take the nation’s highest office, but this may not be the case.

Regardless, he is ultimately responsible for the gross misuse of power that occurred within his administration.

Are the American people truly to believe that the aides responsible for the closing of the George Washington Bridge, the misallocation of Hurricane Sandy relief funds or the nefarious dealings with in-state politicians were not answering to Governor Christie? I find it nearly impossible to believe this myself, despite what the governor has said multiple times in various press conferences and written statements. He was ultimately behind all of these heinous abuses of power. It would be impossible for these acts to be committed without the consent of New Jersey’s governor. These aides, the foremost being coincidentally named Bridget Anne Kelly, must have gotten the impetus from somewhere.

No one would decide to bully Mark Sokolich, the mayor of Fort Lee, NJ, just for fun. No one would decide, for sheer amusement, to close a large section of one of the world’s busiest bridges. And yet, this is the story the Christie administration would have us believe: that this individual was acting without the permission of her boss. The notion is utterly ridiculous when examined.

For me, the most unnerving aspect of the Governor Christie scandal is that it provides a rare and unique window into how day-to-day governmental administration functions. One would like to believe that this scandal represents an abuse of power far more heinous than any normal politician would ever contemplate.

Yet it seems more likely that this scandal exposes practices and behaviors that are part of the way politics usually functions. Back room deals, allocation of funds and resources based on personal relationships and political expediency rather than actual need seems to be the way that the government is run.

Despite all our talk of democracy, a republic and other lofty ideals, our political system functions like many others do: on the strength of personalities and personal relationships and on what different politicians can do for each other at the given moment.

The Christie administration made an example of Mark Sokolich, throwing his town and much of the New York metropolitan area into disarray, just to further the governor’s political agenda. How many other abuses of power occur every day, at every level of politics, for the benefit of politicians rather than the people?