Sunday, November 11, 2012

Chris Christie's Crossroads Conumdrum

Chris Christie is at a crossroad in his career.

The candidate that he so vociferously supported for President was overwhelmingly defeated. Christie, who has angered the Democrats and a few moderate Republicans with his words and deeds, has been the target of similar vitriol from the mainstream GOP for embracing President Obama and big government in the hurricane relief effort.

His brusque style, while endearing to some, diverts attention from his agenda.

He embraces right-wing extremism by drinking from the teat of the Koch Brothers and supporting wacko candidates like Steve King in Iowa. Yet he pisses off those same extremists by appointing a Muslim judge, walking hand-in-hand with a black president, and extoling the big-government virtues of FEMA. He preaches bipartisanship while holding a lock on most of his GOP legislators.

Unlike those who only espouse family values, he actually practices them. I don’t think you’ll see Chris Christie join the litany of many GOP powerful politicians who hold back false tears while confessing to an extra-marital affair. Yet his ethical behavior leaves many questions unanswered, such as his friend’s dealing with the lucrative halfway house privatization business or his questionable “charity” to help hurricane victims.

He claims he’s a friend of the environment while simultaneously and unilaterally waiving environmental regulations. He vows to rebuild the Jersey Shore while ignoring the root cause of the magnitude of the destruction – man-made global climate change.

Unlike Mitt Romney, who had multiple and changing positions on just about everything, Christie invariably stands firm on the issues. Once he makes up his mind, he rarely changes it. And that, in a nutshell, is Christie’s problem.

There’s a difference between flip-flopping and evolving on one’s position. President Obama and New Jersey  Senate President Stephen Sweeney evolved on their position on gay rights and marriage equality. They weren’t for it one day and against it the next. They moved slowly along the continuum toward the side of tolerance and then equality.

Chris Christie can leverage his popularity to fill the post-election void in Republican party leadership. If he does, how will he use that power? Will he continue to allow the party to slide down the abyss created by the extreme right wing? Or will he lead the charge to form a neo-moderate power base within the party? Will he embrace the thoughts of Michelle Bachman and Steve King, or will he move the party toward the more moderate positions of former Governor Christine Todd Whitman and State Senator Diane Allen?

His actions over the next few weeks and months should provide us with a hint. Now that Obamacare has been affirmed by the Supreme Court and the popular electorate, will Christie finally sign the health exchange bill? Now that the influence peddling of the Koch Brothers has been neutered, will Christie evolve into a friend of the environment? Now that both polls and referenda have shown that marriage equality has the overwhelming support of the population, will Christie release the lock he has on GOP legislators and allow them to vote their conscience? All of this will play out over the next twelve months as New Jersey elects its Governor and legislature in what we hope is the post-Tea Party era.

Make no mistake about it – Christie is governed not by ideology, but by his supersized ego. He craves power and attention. The question is, will he achieve his goal by creating a winnable scenario as a neo-moderate, or will he continue down the destructive path of allying himself with Tea Party and corporate extremism?


  1. There is zero chance I will ever again vote for Chris Christie. 9% of Presidential voters say they made their decision in the last week or so of the election. Of those, fully 41% said Hurricane Sandy was a significant influence on their decision. And the image they had of Hurricane Sandy was the Obama/Christie mutual photo op on the beach. Mayor Bloomberg (an Obama endorser) turned down Obama's request for a similar photo op in New York City. He was too busy for the interruption.

    Christie then compounded the situation by refusing to appear with Romney over the last weekend of the campaign. Obviously Christie, who has the emotional maturity of a four year old, was pissed off by something Romney or his staff did.

    I am enough of a believer in the Republican big tent to accept a pro-abortion, pro-amnesty man with a Democrat temperament, but he has to be loyal to the party at least to some minimal extent. I may be an outlier on this among Republicans, but I doubt it. Christie has no future as a Republican. I fully expect him to become a Democrat before next November. This all leads up to my two questions for you:

    1) If Christie goes Democrat, with the appropriate "tweaks" to his positions, would you consider supporting him?
    2) If not, and you won't vote for him and I won't vote for him, who is going to vote for him?

  2. Glen -

    Christie would not be a good fit for the Democratic Party as explained here. Also, there are enough Christie-sized egos among some of the Democratic contenders for governor that he would not find it easy to switch parties. While I have someone else as my personal favorite for the Democratic nomination, the only person today who would have a chance against Christie is Cory Booker, and I don't think he will run. While there's a large contingent of Republicans who, unlike you, don't accept the "big tent" philosophy, I think if Christie decides to run for re-election, he will pick up a lot of Democratic and Independent votes. The building boom that was spurred by Hurricane Sandy will create thousands of jobs, so Christie will look like a hero.

    My question to you is, as a principled and open-minded Conservative, who would you support for governor next year? Do you have any favorites?

  3. Cory Booker would be the obvious choice. He seems to be independent and reform-minded.

    I would have once considered Rob Andrews, who seemed to have grand plans as a centrist Democrat. But he seems to have realized there is no path beyond where he is now, and has devolved into an arrogant politician primarily interested in the perks, legal and otherwise, of this office.

    The only other guy I can think of is Steve Sweeney. I doubt we would agree on much, but he seems genuinely aggrieved at the disparity between private sector unions, which are suffering, and public sector unions, which are feeding at the trough.

  4. Oh, and I very much liked Bret Schundler, but he seems to have fallen off the face of the earth after Christie fired him.

  5. I agree 100% with your assessment of Rob Andrews. His challenge of Lautenberg took a lot of chutzpah and effectively ended any chance of a higher office for him.

    I admire Senator Sweeney for his honest admission that he made a mistake in not supporting marriage equality the first time around. And I've had one-on-one conversations with him and believe he is sincere, not politically motivated in his switch (although it didn't hurt him politically). I have issues with how he treated the public sector unions and am uncomfortable with his ties to the unelected South Jersey power brokers, but he's a decent guy and does aspire to higher office.

    Whether or not Cory Booker throws his hat in the ring to challenge Christie, it should be an interesting election year.