Originally published in the TriCityNews, if you live in Monmouth or Ocean County, NJ - pick up a copy! (also published on SayWhatNJ.com)
Senator David Vitter - client of the “D.C. Madam” - would never walk alongside Elliot Spitzer for fear that the conclusion would be drawn that Vitter committed the exact same crime as Spitzer, the only difference being that Vitter never faced any consequences for his behavior. Just like OJ Simpson would never host a Christmas party with Scott Peterson and Britney Spears would never perform a duet with Milli Vanilli.
Yet last Tuesday, Governor Chris Christie took another trip out of state, this time to headline two fundraisers with Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin. It seems in joining forces with the much-loathed Wisconsin Governor, Christie is daring us to state the obvious: Walker is just Christie with a nail in his coffin.
It’s impossible to look at the headlines bearing both of their names and not consider just how similar the New Jersey and Wisconsin governors are.
In March of 2011, Governor Walker approved a bill which castrated collective bargaining rights. Specifically, it took away nearly all collective bargaining rights from the state’s employees. Additionally, the measure forced state workers to pay more for their pensions and health care benefits.
In June of 2011, Governor Christie approved a bill which reformed collective bargaining rights. The rollback of benefits for 750,000 government workers and retirees increased what state and local workers must pay for their health insurance and pensions, suspended cost-of-living increases to retirees’ pension checks and raised retirement ages.
In Wisconsin, Walker’s action was met with protests by tens of thousands which lasted for months and drew support from all over the country. The people of Wisconsin’s buyers remorse for Governor Walker means he now faces a recall election on June 5th, which, if successful, will make him only the third Governor to be recalled in US history.
In New Jersey, Governor Christie’s action was initially met with protests by thousands down State Street. Nearly a year later, much is forgotten. Christie’s popularity is at an all-time high, with his approval rating standing at an inexplicable 59%.
With the majority of his constituents seemingly suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, I suppose Christie sees no reason to fear any sort of uprising. Standing shoulder to shoulder with Walker was a way for him to dance close to the flame and tout his power.
Governor Christie clearly deems it necessary to distinguish himself from the rest of America’s Right-Wing “leaders” for the GOP establishment who will ultimately decide his fate. He’s proved to the King Makers that his charisma and perceived reasonability allow him to get away with what others face losing their elected positions over. Christie doesn’t merely get away with it, he triumphs.
Helpful as it is to Christie’s own political career, making distinctions between him and the rest of the GOP is more important for those of us who value the middle and working class people of New Jersey. Christie’s especially dangerous because he doesn’t wear his radicalism on his sleeve.
Unlike many of his Republican contemporaries, Governor Christie does not lack intelligence or perceptiveness. When he states the patently untrue, it’s because he has full faith in the unwillingness of the American people to do the minimal intellectual work necessary in order to arrive at the truth. They will sooner latch on to any uncomplicated narrative offered to them, however fantastical it may be.
According to Christie, we are now witnessing a “Jersey Comeback”… Where? Did you see it? Did I miss it? Rats, I must have walked right past it. The last time I checked, New Jersey was ranked 45th in job growth with unemployment still at .6% above the National average.
After proposing that $29.4B, Scott-Walker-influenced-budget of his last year, Christie gave us his uncomplicated narrative: “we’re not trying to break the unions. The unions are trying to break the middle class in New Jersey.”
Of course, the truth is that unions built this state’s middle class. The other truth is that a weak middle class is not only desirable for the GOP and those at the top of the economic ladder, but necessary for them to make their political ideals political reality. And people with enough money to facilitate that, like the Koch Brothers, are making good use out of Governor Christie and Governor Walker.
Christie’s not a principled, disciplined individual. He’s a disciplined conservative who knows how to fall in line. Put another way, our governor is an opportunist with no philosophy of his own. He’s a mere vessel for those with clearly defined philosophies like his millionaire donors the Koch Brothers, and as the rollback on New Jersey’s environmental protections with Christie’s DEP Waiver Rule indicates, he’s a damn good vessel at that.
Of Governor Walker, New Jersey Newsroom’s Salvatore Pizzuro wrote “he was sacrificing the people in an effort to protect the State. However, he failed to recognize that the people are the State.” Unfortunately for Walker, he doesn’t possess any of that Christie-mojo which prevents him from looking like the common, self-interested politician that he is.
The people of New Jersey would be wise to recognize that the State is just Governor Christie’s resume for his National ambitions, and to him, the people are of little consequence.