Tonight we see quite a bit of compromising of morals, in that almost everyone is deceiving each other in pursuit of individual objectives; Whether it is James lying about the weekend and Cyrus attempting to manipulate James by offering to adopt a baby, or the set-ups and betrayals between Huck and Becky, or the hiding of truths among any number of characters. Sometimes it is motivated by personal desires or refusals to let go, but for many they honestly believe it is in the best interest of the country. Cyrus believes that Fitz is the next great leader for the United States and the best and maybe only person to guide the country. So strongly does he believe this that he has engaged in a plot that at this point suggests interfering or rigging the past election. And in order to protect the position of the president will do almost anything to keep the truth of that from emerging.
At this point we don’t know clearly the motivations of all involved in the conspiracy or the extent of that conspiracy but it does present an example of how a crisis will test our values. We all have a moral compass that we adhere to but once we find ourselves in a crisis our values can be severely tested. We may exhibit behavior we didn’t think we were capable of or make compromises we would not have dreamed of. When it becomes a question of self-preservation, whether that is survival or avoiding punishment, we are often not as strong as we might think. Certainly one of the attributes that define those we considered to have been great leaders and heroes, such as Mandela or King, was their ability to stay the course for what they believed no matter how harsh the consequences. The fact that we consider this heroic implies that for most of us it would be too much to handle. Many people will betray their ideals when a crisis arises which is often why in high profile cases it is important to have a crisis counselor to help ground you rather than to leave you to your own strategies. Too often slight compromise can snowball into all out abandonment of principles. Mistakes can be forgiven but at some point the amount of them makes redemption impossible.
What I find interesting in the show is how many individuals feel they are making decisions, even corrupt ones, in the best interest of the country. They seem to sincerely believe this; even Hollis Doyle at least to this point would appear to behave out of a plan for how the country should be run, whether this is only for personal gains remains to be seen. In a classic case of the ends justifying the means we see all types of deviant behavior exhibited. Although the principal of the government for the people is in play there is an acceptance of a corrupt environment in which it is okay to do whatever to assure reaching your goal – in this case the purported strength of the nation. Is this a reflection of today’s seemingly growing cynicism with politicians, government, and corporate CEOs? Possibly, but the negative behavior is not something new. Corruption, self-interests, immoral conduct, and behavior contrary to purported ideals has always existed, and judging from history in this country I wonder if it wasn’t even more prevalent in our past. The difference today, as I have alluded to in previous blogs, is the advent of instant and ubiquitous communications. In the past such transference of communication would take longer thereby giving more time to either block it or alter it but today with social networks, Twitter, etc., we are seemingly always connected. Technology has rendered transparency where none was sought. We may not be more corrupt, more dysfunctional today than we were decades earlier but we are more aware of it. The result may be a loss of trust in our officials and skepticism of our heroes. Still, let’s not forget these flaws may be unforgivable, their climb to whatever position they hold was based on something they projected, maybe believed in passionately, or actions that were applauded. Perhaps, with the ability to know more about an individual will serve to police their actions or force us to reevaluate what kind of behavior is most important to us and determine how we define trust.
Judy A. Smith is the founder and President of Smith and Company, a leading strategic and crisis communications firm with offices in Washington D.C. and Los Angeles as well as a Co-Executive Producer of ABC's Scandal. You can follow her on Twitter (@JudySmith_) or "Like" her on Facebook, and you can get more information about managing personal and professional crisis situations by visiting her site, judysmith.com.