Friday, February 17, 2012

Christie's Conundrum

I have no doubt that Governor Chris Christie will veto the marriage equality bill that passed in both houses of the New Jersey legislature. After all, no matter what you think of him, he follows up on his public pronouncements, and admitting that he made a mistake is an anathema to him.

Christie looks at everything through a political lens, regardless of the impact on the citizens of New Jersey. As Garden State Equality’s Steven Goldstein put it, “He won’t veto the bill because he’s anti-gay.  He’ll veto the bill because the 2016 South Carolina Republican Presidential primary electorate is anti-gay.”

Being the shrewd politician that he is, Christie has aligned his position with what he must think is a “win-win” situation.

First, he knows he won’t get the Vice Presidential nomination if Mitt Romney, who he supports, wins the Republican race. Both Christie and Romney are from  the Mean-Spirited-but-Relatively-Sane wing of the Republican party, and the GOP being the “big tent” party that it is, would have to balance the ticket with someone from the Mean-Spirited-but-Really-Crazy wing or the Fundamentalist Christian Jihadist wing. But Christie is still hedging his bets.

If Romney pulls an upset and defeats Barack Obama, Christie will be appointed Attorney General. While his tenure as US Attorney is unblemished by success, Christie figures he would have an easy time being confirmed by a Democratic but cowardly Senate, given that he would come across as “not as bad as Alberto Gonzalez.” And if Romney loses, the influence of the Mean-Spirited-but-Really-Crazy wing is diminished, setting up Christie as the front-runner for the nomination in 2016.

But Christie is no dummy. He’s got a conundrum to deal with. He knows that he’s on the wrong side of history with his stance on marriage equality. And he knows that the country’s attitude is changing. As younger generations become more politically influential and the older generations die off, the support for same-sex marriage will increase. And while a generational change takes more than four years, this has got to be part of Christie’s calculus.

Part of Christie’s appeal is his simplistic solutions to complex problems. So he’ll probably stand by his word and veto the marriage equality bill. But down the road, he may pull a Steve Sweeney and say he regretted that decision, especially after the legislature overrides his veto.

It’s just too bad that he’s loath to do the right thing from the outset.

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