If you’ve glanced at a television screen in the past ten days or so, you’ve probably heard about Chris Christie. The Republican Governor of New Jersey—at least for now—was elected back in 2009 and then reelected in late 2013. He was also considered as a candidate in the 2012 presidential election, but declined to run. He was part of both Bush Administrations, and his reelection in 2013 was a landslide victory over his opponent, Barbara Buono. However, recently Christie’s neat, successful world seems to be crumbling around him.
On January 8, emails surfaced that suggested people on Christie’s payroll had caused lane closures on the George Washington Bridge that backed up traffic for hours. Although Christie initially denied all of the allegations and claimed ignorance, he was required to take responsibility once it was found out his staff were the ones orchestrating it.
In a statement he released a day after the scandal broke, not once did he offer an apology to anyone who was affected, or to those who voted, or to anyone at all, really. He said it was badly done all around, but he didn’t exactly take responsibility. Christie did finally apologize, in his own way, but not until some time later.
Now, even more scandals involving Christie are appearing. One of which is the ongoing allegations of Christie using Hurricane Sandy aid to garner political support; another accuses him of using his political power to bully other politicians. It appears that Christie is just another in a long line of corrupt New Jersey politicians. It’s practically commonplace, and it is no wonder that people have lost faith in government and American politics.
It would be nice if the United States held true to the ideals of democracy, but sadly that isn’t the case. In the Global Democratic Ranking of 2013, the United States didn’t even make the top ten of the list—it came in 15th of those countries which claim to be democracies (a total of 15 of the 196 recognized countries). It’s not a terrible rank, but not exactly a stellar rank either from a country that claims to be one of, if not the first modern democracy. So at what point does a government need to be overhauled, or at the very least reconsidered?
Perhaps the answer lies in America’s obsession with our constitution. Unlike most countries, which have either tried several constitutions or don’t have one at all, the United States has stuck with its original. Even 26 Amendments later, we’ve only made minor changes to the way we operate our government through our constitution. The current constitution was written for a country which was just being formed, one which had not yet established its place in the world. How can such a document be suited for governing a country that has changed so much in the 250 years since its inception? Not to say that all of the ideas are outdated, but perhaps some reformatting wouldn’t be amiss.
But, returning to the issue of Christie, what is to be done? It is highly doubtful that these scandals will shorten his term in office, which has only just begun. Corruption such as his is hardly uncommon, and since there isn’t enough proof to tie Christie directly to the crime, it seems for now that he is likely to remain in office. If enough scandals come up, he might be pressured to resign, though I doubt it. Far more likely is that the media will be in a frenzy for a while, as it was immediately after the bridge scandal broke. Then the fervor will die down and Christie will continue as governor and everyone will collectively shrug, sigh, and get on with their lives.
So the nation waits for the conclusion of this scandal and the beginning of the next. It’s not a question of if, but only of when and where. Perhaps the next crooked politician will have the decency to apologize straight away. In any case, a little contriteness wouldn’t go awry. Honesty seems a bit too much to ask in the current state of things, sadly.
Maybe one day all of our hopes won’t prove to be unfounded and we’ll get an honest, hardworking government by the people and for the people. For now, though, we’ll all be watching with bated breath to see what scandal with whom breaks next.
—Lily Elbaum ’16 is a prospective independent major.