Cross-posted to bluejersey.com
There’s a Facebook group called “NJ Against Chris Christie” which has over 38,000 members. Some of the discourse there is childish, using epithets and taunts. Yet, there’s also a considerable amount of rational discussion about the governor’s performance, his cronyism, and his overly simplistic solutions to complex problems. Often, it is pointed out that New Jersey election law allows a recall petition to be initiated one year following a gubernatorial election, and there’s lots of talk about doing so.
As I explained in an earlier post, this is a bad idea. Repeatedly, Republicans want to nullify election results they don’t like, while Democrats abide by the process. A recall effort would have a deleterious side effect of uniting the Republicans at a time when their Tea Party acolytes are dividing the right-wingers over the Schundlergate affair. Recall has the danger of becoming another wedge issue that will unite conservatives and bring them to the ballot box in greater numbers. Opposition to recall would be highly funded by the same corporations which are in bed with the governor on tax cuts and reduction of the quality of life for the poor and middle class in the Garden State.
Yet, the Democrats are not taking enough political advantage of the governor’s missteps. With the exception of the Senate’s refusal to hold hearings on the replacement for Judge John Wallace after his blatantly political removal by the governor, the legislators have not fulfilled their checks-and-balance responsibilities to mitigate and reverse the governor’s harmful agenda. They rolled over on the millionaire’s tax and women’s health while Christie’s veto pen is running out of ink.
What the Democrats need is a rallying point, a person who can provide political leadership today and is in a position to provide executive leadership after the 2013 gubernatorial election. It’s not too early to engage in preliminary actions to challenge our failed governor in three years. Using the electoral system rather than a feel-good but doomed-to-fail recall effort is the way to go.
So who can reclaim the Democratic mantle in New Jersey, stand up against the corporate juggernaut, and effectively challenge Christie in 2013? Three people immediately come to mind:
Cory Booker. The Newark mayor has been portrayed as the next Barack Obama. He’s charismatic, smart, and has one of the toughest jobs in New Jersey. The problem is that if he does his job successfully, he’s bound to make a lot of political enemies as he cleans up the mess in our largest city. And his cozying up to the governor on tax caps and education doesn’t promote his image as a Christie alternative.
Rob Andrews. His star is rising in Congress as an articulate and ambitious left-of-center member. He earned his chops as a hard-working proponent of health insurance reform. But his quixotic attempt to unseat Senator Lautenberg and his South Jersey residency both work against him.
Loretta Weinberg. Already the de facto foil to Christie’s draconian plans, the state senator from Teaneck would be a great counterpoint to represent the common person in New Jersey. She is as much at home with the ferocious politics of Trenton as she is with advocating for the men, women, and children of New Jersey. Eleven years younger than Senator Lautenberg, she has the energy, smarts, and menschlekeit to be an effective leader of the growing anti-Christie forces, and to be a strong candidate for governor in 2013.
So how would a Christie vs. Weinberg election turn out? A wise and feisty Jewish grandmother against the phoniness of the corpulent neighborhood bully? No contest.