January 22, 2014
Why Didn’t New Jersey Mayors Stand Up to Chris Christie?

Bullying is collaborative. It’s a transaction between bullies, victims who are unable or unwilling to defend themselves, and, in most cases, onlookers who are too cowardly or self-interested to intervene. Children and teens have developmental excuses for not standing up to bullying, in defense of themselves or others. Adults have none.
So I don’t have much sympathy for New Jersey mayors complaining belatedly of Chris Christie’s bullying now that he’s vulnerable. Or, rather, I won’t have much sympathy for them if it becomes clear that Christie merely engaged in bullying and not high-stakes abuse of power. If allegations that he held Sandy aid and other entitlements hostage are true, then he wasn’t simply a bully intent on taunting or humiliating people. He was running a protection racket.
The decision to resist or submit to extortion is harder and more complicated than the obligation to call out a bully. A governor who uses the welfare of citizens as leverage in “negotiations” presents local political leaders with moral and practical dilemmas. Assuming that they’re focused in good faith on their constituents’ public interests more than their own private interests in reelection, they have to balance the indirect, cumulative harm of cooperating with an extortionist governor and helping to consolidate his power with the direct, immediate harm of not cooperating with him. What’s a mayor to do?
Read more. [Image: Reuters]

Why Didn’t New Jersey Mayors Stand Up to Chris Christie?

Bullying is collaborative. It’s a transaction between bullies, victims who are unable or unwilling to defend themselves, and, in most cases, onlookers who are too cowardly or self-interested to intervene. Children and teens have developmental excuses for not standing up to bullying, in defense of themselves or others. Adults have none.

So I don’t have much sympathy for New Jersey mayors complaining belatedly of Chris Christie’s bullying now that he’s vulnerable. Or, rather, I won’t have much sympathy for them if it becomes clear that Christie merely engaged in bullying and not high-stakes abuse of power. If allegations that he held Sandy aid and other entitlements hostage are true, then he wasn’t simply a bully intent on taunting or humiliating people. He was running a protection racket.

The decision to resist or submit to extortion is harder and more complicated than the obligation to call out a bully. A governor who uses the welfare of citizens as leverage in “negotiations” presents local political leaders with moral and practical dilemmas. Assuming that they’re focused in good faith on their constituents’ public interests more than their own private interests in reelection, they have to balance the indirect, cumulative harm of cooperating with an extortionist governor and helping to consolidate his power with the direct, immediate harm of not cooperating with him. What’s a mayor to do?

Read more. [Image: Reuters]

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    Why Didn’t New Jersey Mayors Stand Up to Chris Christie? Bullying is collaborative. It’s a transaction between bullies,...
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