Oderint Dum Metuant: “Let them hate you so long as they fear you.”
– Lucius Accius, 2nd Century, BCE).
Fear secures the rule of most despots. And when that fear erodes and hatred takes over, the despot is overthrown.
Such is likely to be the fate of Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey.
Christie is renowned as a “control freak.” Even so, as Richard Nixon learned to his sorrow, events often have a way of eventually taking control. With “Bridgegate,” events have forced the initiative from the Governor’s office into the hands of the investigating committees of the New Jersey Legislature and the United State Congress. Perhaps for the first time in his incumbency, Chris Christie is on the defensive. Not an enviable position for a controlling bully.
History provides numerous examples of events spinning out of control, leading to unexpected and unintended consequences. At first, the American revolutionaries thought of themselves as loyal Englishmen, seeking redress from their Sovereign. But after the shots were fired at Lexington and Concord, the die was cast and there was no turning back.
Before the fall of the Berlin Wall, one in eight East German citizens were informants for the Stasi. But when the people poured into the streets and the army refused to fire on them, the regime was finished.
Similarly in the Soviet Union. Mikhail Gorbachev, to his everlasting credit, decided that the time had come to release the nations of Eastern Europe from Soviet captivity. What he had not expected was that the wave of national independence would extend within the borders of the Soviet Union and include fourteen of the fifteen Soviet republics. But when a few Communist apparachiki attempted to overthrow Gorbachev, ordinary Russian citizens (including several of my personal friends) filled the streets of Moscow, Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), and other cities. And when, as in East Germany, the Red Army refused to fire on the protesters, the coup collapsed.
A year or two before the collapse of communism in eastern Europe, and then of the Soviet Union itself, the American military-industrial complex and the militant Right believed implicitly that the Cold War was a permanent condition of global politics. The ensuing events were simply unthinkable.
And so on – in British India, the American South, South Africa. The impossible becomes possible, and then inevitable. As Gandhi observed: “ First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
It appears that the Christie may be at, or beyond, such a tipping point, following which there is no return.
Like most despots, Chris Christie is merciless. He has shown no concern whatever for the collateral damage of his vendettas. Not for the residents of Jersey City or Hoboken, whose Mayors chose not to endorse him. And not for the commuters, school children, and EMS victims of Bergen County. His victims are many: the school teachers of New Jersey, numerous officials and politicians including the aforementioned mayors. Now that the Bully is losing his grip, it is time at last for these victims to turn on him. And you can count on it. They will.
Will Bridget Kelly and other Christie’s former deputies, once steadfastly loyal and obedient, silently tolerate the insult and humiliation that Christie is now piling on them? Not likely.
When forced to testify, will they choose full disclosure over prison? Is there a John Dean among them? Probably.
Will Christie and his lawyers be able to stifle or destroy all evidence linking the scandals to the Governor? In this age of e-mails, copiers, smart-phone cameras and YouTube, Probably not.
Chris Christie is finished. He will be out of office within the year.
Oligarchs take note. Your turn may be next. You may own the Congress, the Courts, the Media, and most of the nation’s wealth. But for every one of you there are several hundred of the rest of us – your victims.
A revolution is inevitable. Let us hope and pray that it will be peaceful. FDR, Gandhi, King, Gorbachev, Sakharov, and Mandela have led the way.
“The people, united, cannot be defeated.”