I’m not sure if I’m suffering from some sort of latent dyslexia or if I’m channeling the godlike reputation he’s gained in the last several months, but nearly every time I try to type the name “Chris Christie,” I accidentally type “Christ” just before stopping myself and retyping the New Jersey governor’s actual first name. I’m not making that up, sadly.
There’s no doubt that, at a glance, Chris Christie (I just did it again, by the way) sounds like the real deal. His press conference last week in which he mercilessly pummeled the congressional Republicans for not passing a Hurricane Sandy relief bill is just the latest example of Christie stepping onto the national stage and providing a brief but welcome breath of fresh air in a universe where Republicans hardly ever break ranks and eat their own, and a universe where even fewer politicians sound as forthright and authentic.
In the Post-McCain era, Christie is being hailed as the new maverick, the new straight-talker. And I can’t bump into a liberal online or elsewhere without hearing about how awesome he is — how he might be a Republican that liberals can actually support.
Of course there’s probably a 5,000 word psycho-political analysis to be written about how too many liberals are just dying to make friends with Republicans. Some of us really, really, really want to fall in love with a Republican. It’s a bizarre form of Stockholm Syndrome or perhaps it’s our genetic predisposition to make peace with enemies who have no desire for an ideological détente. We desperately want to be able to point at a particular Republican and exclaim, “Woweee, I would totally vote for that guy!”
During the immediate aftermath of 9/11, that Republican was Rudy Giuliani: a moderate, pro-gay, pro-choice New Yorker who, before he began to exploit the tragedy like a cheap home security salesman, kind of kicked ass for a brief while. The same goes for John McCain. To this day, and in spite of the gamma-irradiated, roid-raging Fox News crank he became in 2008, whenever McCain speaks out against torture or in support of campaign finance reform, liberals turn all gooey. In fact, the John Wells years of The West Wing were almost exclusively about reflexively pitching Republicans and Republican policies.
And now there’s Christ. Christie.
According to a PPP poll last month, among Republicans Christie has the lowest net favorability rating of any would-be Republican presidential candidate. But among all voters, Christie has the highest net favorability — one point ahead of Hillary Clinton. This indicates that Christie is picking up a lot of support among easily-smitten Democrats.
The truth is, however, he isn’t your friend, nor is he the Republican messiah. To the latter point, I’m beginning to doubt that he’ll have any chance whatsoever of becoming the Republican nominee for president in 2016, with or without crossover support from liberal Democrats.
Yes, Christie is a moderate on marriage equality. He supports civil unions but not full marriage rights. In a hardlined Republican crowd, that’s rare. He’s also acknowledged the man-made causes of the climate crisis. Good for him. But that’s about it. On the other side of the fence, he happens to be staunchly anti-choice on reproductive rights. He’s historically opposed to gun control laws, including one that would’ve restricted gun purchases to one-per-month. Evidently Christie thinks Americans should be able to purchase multiple guns every month. He’s also certifiably insane when it comes to economic and fiscal policy, vetoing tax hikes on millionaires while cutting infrastructure and education spending. He’s never met a supply-side proposal he didn’t like, except when it comes to transporting his ass to soccer games. Then it’s spend, spend, spend.
In terms of his public style, the same personality that gives us honest press conferences like last week, as well as his unapologetic kudos for the president back in October, also gives us snippy goombah reactions to the press and the public at large, behavior that makes George W. Bush’s more petulant outbursts seem statesmanlike (links via Charles Pierce).
Oh, and guess what? Just like McCain and Giuliani before him, Christie will absolutely embrace the far-right during the 2016 primaries and probably continue to grapple onto the right if a miracle happens (he’s Christ!) and he wins the nomination. But to repeat, he won’t win the nomination for a couple of key reasons. First, the entire base and even rank-and-file Republicans blame him for the president’s re-election. This is a crucial point. That thing about elephants never forgetting? They surely won’t forget Christie and Obama at Brigantine. Second, his act plays really well in New Jersey, but it’s unlikely to play well with evangelicals and yokels elsewhere.
So just because he criticized the most unproductive and unpopular House of Representatives in the history of the U.S. Congress doesn’t make him particularly brave (maybe tomorrow he’ll bravely come out against brain cancer and deer ticks), and it certainly doesn’t mitigate his more conservative policy positions — positions in areas that kind of matter to liberals, especially issues that deal with the female reproductive zone.
Simply put: we’ve seen this maverick act before. It gave us “9/11 Tourettes” and, you know, Sarah Palin. Be careful who you fall in love with.