The Promise of Power

Governor Chris Christie’s most recent scandal highlights the moral gap between those with power and those without it. Once beloved by many in the state of New Jersey for his blatant honesty and authenticity, Gov. Christie today holds the lowest approval rating ever, just 15%, in the history of state of New Jersey according to online magazine Politico New Jersy,

The most recent negative attention Gov. Christie received, a family beach outing at a public New Jersey beach that was closed to the public by the governor over a budget battle, is not the first scandal the embattled politician has faced.

According to an article in the Chicago Tribute, in September of 2013, aids to Gov. Christie orchestrated a shutdown of lanes on a busy New Jersey bridge to embarrass and punish a New Jersey borough mayor Mark Sokolich, a democrat. Sokolich’ sin: refusing to endorse Gov. Christie’s re-election bid for governor. Christie’s two aids were given prison time for their roll in the scandal. Governor Christie ran for President of the United States.

This most recent misstep by Gov. Christie reminds us of how a lot of people in power wield authority when given the opportunity. Not all of them misuse their power, but a lot do.

The list of those who falter is long and disappointing. From presidents like Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon, to former New York congressman Anthony Weiner, former Illinois governor Rob Blagojevich who was imprisoned on corruption charges, and former Washington D.C. Mayor Marion Barry caught on camera smoking crack cocaine, the list goes on and on.

Are these just “bad people” with a weak moral compass and little to no regard for the law, or were they suduced by the influence of their positions? Since a lot of people in power are never caught up in scandal for misdeeds, or at least never caught, what is it about the ones we know about that caused them to stray? Some of them may have been corrupt prior to coming into power, but not all of them for sure.

There have been studies going back decades about power and corruption, how it happens and why it happens. One of the main take-aways from these stories is that anybody can become enamored with power and begin to abuse it under the right circumstances. The 1971 Stanford Prison Study is one such example of what happens when seemingly “good people” go “bad.” The Stanford study showed students at a prestigious university quickly learning to abuse their power over other students in really disturbing ways,

Newer studies appear to reinforce the idea that given the right set of circumstances many “good people” who are placed in a powerful position over other peoples’ lives will often abuse their authority. Bernie Madoff did not start out as a swindler, but over a period of time, experience and circumstances drove him to conduct one of the largest ponzi schemes in American history.

Like Madoff, Gov. Christie did not have a criminal past or troubled youth. He has been a public servant adored by many throughout his career. 

Although the history books are not yet closed on the legacy of Governor Chris Christie, the future of people in power continues to look bleak for years to come.


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