Candidates Without Conscience

The situation in Flint, Michigan is beyond tragic. All children under the age of six, some 8,000 kids, have had their intellectual development impaired in some way. One politician bears all the blame, Rick Snyder. Saying he destroyed the futures of 8,000 kids would not be hyperbolic. Think about that. I said this in a Facebook post:

What does it say about Snyder that he’s showing little or no signs or remorse? That’s beyond psychopathic. Anyone with a functioning moral compass in Snyder’s position would have committed suicide by now, or at least contemplated it.

Snyder’s guilt of course not only falls short of suicide level, it’s not even at resignation level. Kind of stunning, isn’t it? The guy destroyed thousands of lives, and he hasn’t even resigned in shame. Could you, reader, fight to continue on in office after screwing up so badly? I couldn’t.

But I don’t consider this a right vs. left thing. If politicians differ on this front, it’s only by degree. At best they fall into two categories: those with no shame, and those with virtually no shame. And perhaps a few oddballs whose morality functions in the same manner as that of ordinary people. 

Consider Bernie Sanders’ vote to exempt gun manufacturers from product liability suits. Hillary’s been whacking him upside the head with that one for the past few months. As readers here know well, I’m no Hillary fan, but I can’t bring myself to criticize her on this front. It was an amazingly moronic vote for a guy who’s supposedly not in the tank. The liability exemption undoubtedly has cost many lives.

How does Sanders answer the charge? Mostly by pointing out his D- rating from the National Rifle Association. But wait. He didn’t get the D- for that vote. No, he got an A+ from the NRA for that one. Obviously, Sanders regrets that vote, as well he should. Otherwise, he’d be explaining why the vote was a good vote, rather than obfuscating. But does his shame rise to the minimal level of saying at some point “I screwed up. It was a bad vote.” No.

How about all those bad Iraq War authorization votes? Almost as bad, how about all the good ones? We hear this over and over again. Candidate A, who voted against the Iraq War, attacks Candidate B, who voted for it. Sometimes Candidate B owns up to the mistake, as has become fashionable to do, especially for Democrats. But consider the debate that takes place. The attack dwells on the financial cost, the casualties suffered by American troops, and the destabilization of Iraq and the surrounding region. The mea culpas focus on those aspects of the war as well.

What virtually is never mentioned, however, whether by the attackers who got it right (or didn’t vote) or those being attacked for getting it wrong, is the unfathomable misery needlessly and stupidly inflicted on the Iraqi people, including the deaths of hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of innocent human beings. They’re still suffering and dying today, whether from unsafe drinking water, unsanitary conditions, starvation, exposure, or violence at the hands of ISIS. The only thing that distinguishes the Iraq War from genocide is that the deaths were not intended. Foreseeable, but not intended.

Of all the politicians who either voted for the Iraq War authorization or openly supported it, have any of them had a crisis of conscience where he or she showed real guilt over the massive level of human suffering he or she played a role in creating? I’m guessing yes, one or two have, but the percentage is so small few of us even can remember an incidence of this.

Finally, consider Chris Christie and Bridgegate? I think many of us believe that the question is not whether Christie ordered the bridge closure, but whether it can be proved he did so. If, hypothetically, Christie indeed did order the bridge closure, he effectively committed manslaughter. People died as a direct result of the closure, because emergency vehicles tied up in traffic couldn’t reach the hospital in time. For an ordinary human being, that would be a ton of emotional baggage to have to carry. I submit the guilt from that would cause someone with a modestly functioning moral compass to opt for intense psychological counseling over a presidential candidacy. Logically, causing people to die over a petty political spat would trigger the thought “I’m not suited to be President. I’m lucky I’m not in jail.”

But here’s the thing: In evaluating Christie’s candidacy, pretty much everyone takes it for granted that Bridgegate would stop him from running only if he thought his involvement would render him unelectable. We take it as an absolute given that any personal guilt Christie had over what happened would be non-existent. In other words, we assume his moral compass does not work the same way ours do.

The bottom line I fear is that we have a system that selects politicians who are either borderline or outrightly psychopathic at a rate far greater than what exists in the general population. Consciously or subconsciously, we accept that reality.

Through this lens, all the crazy actions our politicians take start to make sense.

6 responses to “Candidates Without Conscience

  1. captain*arizona

    don’t they have child endangerment laws in michigan? how about the feds? if this isn’t child abuse what is.

    • There are several petitions going around to have Gov. Snyder indicted.

      Keeping your constituents safe would seem to be job one for a elected official, he not only failed at that basic task, he’s failed as a human being.

  2. I recently finished an interesting book, “The Sociopath Next Door”. The author claims that about 4% of the general population are sociopaths, or about one in twenty five. She also has case studies of people who rise very high in their field. I think politics is a fertile ground for a sociopath to do extremely well.

    • I think that’s right, Jim. At the same time, I think it’s possible for success in politics to turn people, the way wealth does. Someone gets to DC, or even the state capitol, and has everyone throwing themselves at him/her, how easy would it be for that person to start thinking others are less important and losing the ability to empathize.

      • I submit Kyrsten Sinema as exhibit A.

        I voted for her, and right after we gave her the job she went to work for the banks.

        I think there’s just a type of person who doesn’t have a moral compass that points anywhere other than to re-election.

  3. Flint is what you get when you allow Libertarians to run things.

    Expecting shame from a Libertarian is like expecting Thucky to speak Spanish.

    It’s just not going to happen.