Friday, January 22, 2016

Scandal Saturation

What effect will a single scandal have on a politician? How about multiple scandals? Surprisingly, the single scandal seems much more likely to purge the powerful. Nixon, for example, fell victim to the Watergate break-in, even though he apparently participated only in the cover-up, not the original crime. That caused him to be the only president in history to resign from office. The scandal became so well-known that, today, a host of major and minor scandals having nothing to do with the Watergate office building get the suffix “gate” attached to their names.

On the other hand, look at the scandals in the life of Bill and Hillary Clinton. Insider trading, perjury, lying about the cause of the Benghazi attack, risking sensitive national security information on a private server, abuse of women, and on and on and on. Almost any one of the Clinton scandals is as shady as Watergate – yet most of the news and many voters ignore those scandals. Why?

I am no psychologist and have been unable to find anything on line to back this up, but my theory is that multiple scandals diffuse the response. People concentrate on a single scandal and the target of their anger cannot escape. However, the more scandals there are involving a particular politician, the more thinly spread is the reaction. That seems to me to be happening with the Clintons. Whether deliberately or just because of their lack of character, they have created a whole herd of scandals. Now, except for their enemies, people pay little attention to any of those scandals – and even their enemies are diffusing their attacks, some concentrating on the abuse issues, some on the email scandal etc.

I do not know the reasons why, but I suspect people are just so overloaded with scandal news that they are starting to ignore it. Of course that combines with the media obsession with making Hillary president. This bodes ill for the country. It means that we will reject someone who may be a basically good person with a single flaw while accepting the real scoundrel because we cannot keep track of all his nefarious characteristics.

I hope some psychologist can enlighten us on this matter. I hope even more that voters will wake up and pay attention to all pertinent information, even if they seem to face overload.

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