No one knows Wisconsin like John Nichols, so when I got a tweet from him, I clicked over, The Scott Walker Effect: Helping Democrats Win and Republicans Lose. It has a lot of fun details about the big rally that Walker did with Ken Cuccinelli that only managed to attract about 150 supporters. That was the weekend before the election! But it isn’t exactly news. Republicans tend to have difficulty getting people to their events because so few people actually like them. They would be better off holding events at abortion clinic protests and corporate boardrooms; that’s where their supporters will be found.
What most struck me in the article was this sentence, “Walker was not invited for a final weekend surrogate swing in New Jersey to campaign for Republican Governor Chris Christie.” That’s not surprising; Scott Walker is not popular anywhere, and certainly not in New Jersey. But the thing is, there is no real difference between Walker and Christie on policy. What’s there is around the edges. For example, Walker is a climate change denier. Christie is not. But Christie’s affirmation of climate change has been so weak as to be useless.
The main thing is that when it comes to workers and their rights, there is no daylight between Walker and Christie. All that nonsense of Christie yelling at teachers is not just about him being an asshole to people generally. He hates teachers because, like pretty much any conservative anywhere in this country, he hates teachers unions. It can’t be said enough: the only difference between the Republicans who are supposedly beyond the pale and those who are “mainstream” is how they talk and not what they think. If Christie could, he would destroy all unions, but he’s smart enough to know you don’t say such things.
Nichols wrote another article yesterday, Don’t Get Too Excited About Christie’s Politics of Style, Not Substance. It follows along with what I’ve been saying. The people of New Jersey don’t agree with Christie on much of anything. And that was highlighted Tuesday when the people voted in the same numbers for a new minimum wage law that Christie was very much opposed to. But I’m not sure that the issue with Christie is his great style. It is more that a narrative has been accepted about him that he is one of those reasonable Republicans who was there during Hurricane Sandy and so he ought to be rewarded.
Regardless, Nichols is right on about how Christie’s “style” (such as it is) will play outside the Goodfellas state. In reference to all the media personalities who are swooning over Christie, he writes, “Just do what Chris Christie says and talk about Chris Christie—at least until his ridiculous reach for the Republican presidential nomination crashes and burns after he yells at the first teacher in Iowa.” Of course, that may not happen. I’m sure there will be many advisers around Christie for the next couple of years trying to mold him into a presentable candidate. But I don’t see how he does this while maintaining his claim to being a “tell it like it is” politician.
I don’t actually care about Christie as a politician. I fully expect him to self-immolate long before he becomes president. But I’m very interested in Christie as exemplar of the “reasonable” or bipartisan Republican. There isn’t anything reasonable or bipartisan about him. What he is instead is a corrupt politician who does very well in a corrupt political system. Richard Daley was really good at that same thing. But reporters were smart enough to never call him “reasonable” or bipartisan. And the voters were smart enough to never call him president. I think the voters are still that smart.