Originally published in the TriCityNews the week of October 8th, 2012
In reference to the nomination of Warren G. Harding in 1920, legendary columnist H.L Mencken stated, “on some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”
Too bad Mencken wasn’t around for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
While not a moron, Christie is an undeniable failure. New Jersey’s unemployment now stands at a disastrous 9.9%, and with U.S. unemployment at a 44-month low of 7.8%, it’s over a quarter above above the national average.
Beyond our sky-high unemployment, there’s our $282 billion debt - the fourth-highest in the nation. One out of every twelve mortgages in New Jersey are in the foreclosure stage, the second highest percentage of mortgage loans in foreclosure in the country.
Meanwhile, we had a 15% drop in state revenue from the prior fiscal year, which runs from June 30 to June 30. If Christie wants to cover his $254 million June revenue shortfall, fiscal year 2013 would have to see an impossible 8.2% growth in revenue.
All of this has happened while Christie, like many an American would, has focused solely on appearance.
In an effort to look like a hard-assed fiscal conservative, the governor used inflated cost estimates to justify canceling plans for the ARC rail tunnel to Manhattan, which would have created tens of thousands of construction jobs. With the same objective, he has cut women’s health funding, state aid to schools, legal services for the poor and higher education scholarships for low-income students.
But when the spending is for Christie or his wealthy donors, fiscal conservatism goes out the window.
The Governor spent the summer advocating a 10% income tax cut, which would cost an estimated $10 billion and save the average NJ family just $80.50 while saving millionaires at least $7,265. Christie spent $300,000 of taxpayer dollars on radio advertisements in Illinois which aimed to lure businesses to the Garden State. Not a single businesses relocated. The Governor also spent $260 million in state money on the Revel casino, all to create a mere 4,000 jobs.
Governor Christie’s performance has indeed been consistently poor (though not as poor as 15% of New Jersey’s children below the poverty line!). So it’s perplexing as to why the hell anybody likes him, and how the hell anybody could take him seriously… Until you consider that he is one of the people Mencken prophesied.
We have settled on Chris Christie not because he is best, but because he is easiest for us to understand. Mencken certainly couldn’t have seen Honey Boo Boo coming. He thought we were heading to just the George W. Bush types. Yet Bush carried a veneer of dynastic legitimacy which made him too governmental to have real authenticity.
Tabloids frequently set out to convince us that celebrities are “JUST LIKE US!” The idea that those whom so many idolize are flawed, as we are - or, even better, worse than we are - is comforting. It acts to not only make us feel better about ourselves, but to convince us that we are that close to a noteworthy life, too.
The humanizing and knocking-down of public figures is equivalent to the ego-reinforcement you see all over social media. You and Ashton Kutcher can have the same kind of Twitter account. Your 140 character thoughts are just as important as his are.
Americans won’t rest until there is someone just like them presiding over them. Which more than explains the allure of someone like Sarah Palin.
Palin didn’t remember third grade-level American history, making her just slightly dumber than your average US citizen. This idea of “If someone dumber than me is one melanoma away from the presidency, think of how important I could be” is an addicting one. It seems our self-esteem gets higher when the IQ’s of our public figures get lower.
And again, that’s not to say that Chris Christie’s an idiot, because there’s no indication that he is. He’s just inadequate. And really, aren’t most Americans? It would be nice, for once, to see somebody who has got absolutely no business being anywhere near the Oval Office - no great war record, no great family legacy, no great governing history, no great philosophical mind - get a shot.
We’ve already allowed this theory to take hold of Hollywood, with shows like American Idol and The X Factor, where your average drooling hick gets a chance to be the next Justin Timberlake or whatever. So it’s only a matter of time before it has been completely extended to the Other Great Pillar of American Power - Washington.
Governor Christie is quick to sacrifice the state to save face, and that has led him to ruin New Jersey’s economy exactly like any slightly amoral, self-obsessed American would. In doing so, he has proven that he is the sort of leader the United States has been working towards for decades, just like Mencken warned.