The Green Papers
The Green Papers

'NJ 2013' already casts a long shadow over
the 2016 GOP presidential nomination contest

by Richard E. Berg-Andersson Staff
Fri 8 Nov 2013

Exactly three years from the date this piece is first posted to The Green Papers, Americans will- once again- be going to the polls in a quadrennial Presidential Election; already, so well in advance of even the nominations of the next candidates for President of the United States in National Conventions (and even still well before the first Caucuses and Presidential Primaries now more than two years hence), at least some within the so-called 'Tea Party' movement have their political "steely knives" out for recently re-elected New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, himself currently- as well as most seriously- discussed as a potential 2016 GOP presidential contender.

The catalyst for such 'Tea Party' disapprobation was, in fact, a Statewide election held in my own Garden of a State less than three weeks before Christie's own re-election triumph: the defeat of Republican United States Senate candidate (and 'Tea Party' favorite) Steve Lonegan by now-Senator (and, at the time, Mayor of Newark, NJ) Cory Booker (Democrat), a loss that seemed to have been the electoral equivalent of well stirring a veritable 'Tea Party' "hornet's nest".

For his own part, Lonegan (much like most of the 'Tea Party' movement itself) did rather little to reach out to the "bell curve" New Jersey Republican: a pre-election weekend rally at a stock car racetrack on the northern fringes of south central Jersey's 'Pine Barrens' featured an appearance by former Alaska Governor/2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin (far more "preaching to your own choir" than "expanding your base") and the taped message by my own moderate Republican Congressman via election eve 'robocall' exhorting his own constituents to choose Lonegan over Booker contained, seemingly, just about the same level of enthusiasm as that of a hostage being forced to recite the ransom demands of his captors.

No matter-- for many elements of the 'Tea Party' (both within and without the Garden State) blamed Governor Christie himself for Lonegan's defeat (to the point of sending out- among other, similar drivel- such as Bullet Points "explaining" why Christie- a conservative, at least by New Jersey standards- is "really" a "Socialist"!)

Of course, the above is merely but the "symptom" of a far greater "disease":

Much of what passes for the 'Tea Party' platform nationwide is just such a "Take No Prisoners" approach and, as ever, all too many 'Tea Party' supporters and enthusiasts seem generally- as well as greatly- surprised when this approach doesn't at all achieve victory at the polls (but-- that's OK: next time, we'll just do it the same way all over again!-- what's that well-worn definition of 'Insanity' again?). The very admonition- echoing from now nearly half a century ago- by political observer Herbert Agar, to the effect that those within a political Party (or, for that matter, a faction within such a Party [especially one that seriously hopes to actually win elections]) "should never allow themselves to feel, and preach, that the opposition is not only mistaken but wicked" is here, all too often, outright ignored.

As for Chris Christie's possible presidential ambitions (here putting aside his truest potentiality as a bona fide presidential contender), the key question is (rather obviously): does he really harbor any? To which I can only now- as of this very typing- answer: "I have no idea!"

Although I happen to reside (and, in fact, also grew up) in the county which has served as Christie's political "launching pad", I have never- even once- ever met the man: indeed, the closest I have ever been to Christie physically was back on the morning of Tuesday 3 November 2009, the very day he would first be elected my State's Chief Executive, during which I happened to be driving through my county's seat and, while I was stopped at a stoplight, Christie was but several yards to my left, gladhanding commuters on their way to catching their rush hour trains at the nearby railroad station serving that town.

'Tis true, however, that I have been aware of Christie's existence as a politician for nearly two decades now (as Christie was first elected to my county's Board of Chosen Freeholders- the governing board of a county here in the Garden State- not all that long after I had first moved back to New Jersey from New York City's Borough of Queens) and, I suppose, this is why I am very often asked- by many of those who know me personally (and who also know where I live)- about Christie's desire, or lack thereof, to be President of the United States...

but, I repeat, I have no idea!-- neither, really, does anyone else: perhaps not even Governor Christie himself.

For- at this stage (again, three years before the next Presidential Election itself)- there are pretty much three types of potential presidential contender within a Major Party not fielding an incumbent White House occupant next time round (which- re: 2016- will be the case with both Major Parties):

The first is the potential presidential contender who very much wants to be a presidential contender and, furthermore, already (or so it appears) has the requisite support- within a faction (if not at least a plurality) of his or her Party- to not be at all delusional in their so thinking of themselves as just such a viable presidential contender;

the second, meanwhile, is the potential presidential contender who thinks of himself, or herself, as the most reliable champion of a faction that said person feels might otherwise be neglected by the "bell curve" of the Party were they not to so run and, therefore, is at least seriously thinking about doing so some more than two years before the first Caucuses and Presidential Primaries are even scheduled. This possible candidate's feelings in this regard may or may not be delusional but such a potential contender, far more often than not (not to also say: far more often than they seem to be given credit for), realize that their so seeking their Party's presidential nomination is not necessarily all that likely to be successful; nonetheless, the best campaign slogan of such a possible contender might well be: 'Hey! You Never Know!';

finally, the third type of potential presidential contender is he or she who does not necessarily see a future President of the United States staring back at them every time they look into a mirror but who is already being "talked up" by others who very much would like to see them run for their Party's presidential nomination (though a major problem, at this early stage in a given Presidential Election cycle, is that the reasons others might so want them to run are not always the best reasons for such a campaign come the actual Caucus/Primary "season" more than two years hence). Moreso than is the case with either of the first two types of possible presidential contender, this third type is not necessarily already seeing himself, or herself, as a potential candidate (though they, in fact, might be).

For certain, Governor Christie is not of the second type: the very manner of his re-election to New Jersey's highest office shows that he is far from being the "factional" type of presidential candidate (and this is, indeed, reinforced by the many slings and arrows already being shot in his direction by various and sundry 'Tea Party' Republican factions); Christie's re-election was the result of a coalition of moderate centrist to just left-of-center Democrats, the greater share of Independents and the "bell curve" of Republicans in New Jersey (and the stark contrast with the political demographics of those who voted for unsuccessful GOP U.S. Senate candidate Steve Lonegan less than three weeks earlier could not be more clear).

Thus, Chris Christie is- at this time, and at best- one of the other two types: yet the question of which type still well begs (and this is all aside from the issue of whether or not Christie seriously sees himself as a possible future American President-- if not, then he is locked into the third type but no one besides Christie [or, perhaps, his immediate family] can possibly fairly opine upon such a thing!). A lot re: the answer to this very question depends on just how much the Republican mainstream already sees- or, for that matter, does not yet see- Governor Christie as a most viable candidate for that Party's presidential nomination come 2016...

simply put: we still have a long way to go yet!

Yet it is quite clear, already, where at least some of the 'Tea Party' stands! These have made it clear that they want a "purge" of those they disdain as R I N Os (Republicans In Name Only) and, with all the zeal of that Stalinism they themselves most decry as well as fear, self-ordained 'RINO Hunters' are ever "out there" on the prowl: all that's missing, it often seems, are Solzhenitsyn's 'archipelago' of gulags along with all the summary executions.

I well understand that the 'Tea Party' movement, when taken as a whole, is not some kind of monolith: I have been most careful, in this piece, to write "at least some within" the 'Tea Party', as well as to refer to "[m]uch of what passes for the 'Tea Party' platform", and the like. There are many variants and gradations of what it means, and has meant, to be 'Tea Party'- both within, as well as without, the Republican Party itself: indeed, in some parts of this country, there are still battles between 'Tea Party' groups and organizations over who should even be allowed to call themselves 'Tea Party'!

Nonetheless, the fact remains that- especially since the re-election of President Obama a little over a year ago now- a large segment within the 'Tea Party' movement has come to see many Republicans, no less than they have ever seen liberal 'progressive' Democrats, as their natural political enemies. Thus, Chris Christie has- if, here, only politically speaking- the proverbial "target on his back" within his own Party nationally and any candidacy for the Presidency on his own part will have to well take cognizance of this fact.

The Metro New York/Tri-State-based American Financial Sector- that is: 'Wall Street' itself- is a major component (perhaps even the very epicenter, it can fairly be argued) of the Economy of Christie's home State (and it is no accident that those portions of New Jersey more unabashedly 'Tea Party'-friendly tend to be geographically, where not also demographically, distant from the "bell curve" Republican of Suburbia within the Garden State's northeastern quadrant closest to Manhattan) and Christie the GOP presidential contender cannot all that much afford to at all alienate this rather important constituency in his own political backyard, as it were. Yet this very political, as well as economic, reality drives many within the 'Tea Party' movement- across the country, as much as here in New Jersey- outright bonkers.

Truth be told: no one- at least as 2013 heads onward into early 2014- seems to so cry out 'Republican Establishment' as now does Governor Christie in the immediate wake of his landslide re-election victory the other day-- indeed: to many a 'RINO Hunter', Christie himself is the biggest R I N O!

So my State's newly re-elected Governor faces a real challenge, should he actually decide to seek the 2016 Republican presidential nomination-- which is why I always answer the question 'Do you think Chris Christie could actually become President?' with "First, he has to get himself nominated!"

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