I grew up in New Jersey, in the part of the state that this jokey map refers to as “Christie Country.” So when it comes to the media’s love affair with Chris Christie, and the way he seems to give some Democratic plutocrats a thrill up their leg, I am especially appalled. Believe me, I know that from which I speak, and Christie is about as conservative as you can get and still get elected governor in that state. But since his brand of conservativism is culturally and stylistically distinct from the kind we so often see in the Southern conservatives that dominate Republican, and American, politics, a lot people labor under the delusion that he’s a moderate. He isn’t.
I can understand Republicans’ infatuation with Christie. To conservative dweebs like George Will and David Brooks, Christie is sort of like a theme park version of a white ethnic. He shares those pundits’ nightmarish politics, especially the slavish devotion to servicing economic elites, but scores fake populist points with his unslick appearance and tell-it-like it is Jersey-ness. In this context, the fact that Christie is a nasty bully is a feature, not a bug. He’s a thug, but they think of him as “their” thug. Honestly, I think the guy’s size and his affinity for tracksuits may have them confused, and on some level they mistake him for Tony Soprano. For a lot of conservatives, white ethnics like Christie are their version of the white Negro.
But conservative infatuation with Christie at least makes ideological sense. What in the world is the Democrats’ excuse? There are some Republicans that those centrist Democrat dudes adore that I don’t — Michael Bloomberg, for example. Yet though Bloomberg’s economic and education policies seriously put me off my feed, at least he’s supportive of reproductive choice and same-sex marriage, and his gun control PAC is doing real, positive good.
But Christie? For every occasionally decent gesture (such as his response to Islamophobic critics who attacked him for appointing a Muslim judge), there tend to be at least a half dozen other acts that are fairly heinous. Here are a few: Christie is resolutely anti-choice, has vetoed funding for Planned Parenthood and equal pay for women, has inflicted devastating budget cuts that have shredded the state’s safety net, and has rewarded political allies with sweetheart no-bid contracts.
And what kind of “moderate” would turn down billions of dollars in free federal money for a much-needed train tunnel to New York City? Every time I visit Jersey and sit in traffic in the Lincoln tunnel, I think of this. The icing on the cake is that the tunnel money amounted, in the midst of an historic recession, to the biggest public works project in the nation.
Anyway, the reason I’m reviewing the man’s political history today is that this week brought yet more proof that Chris Christie is no moderate. While the rest of blue America was celebrating the Supreme Court’s historic same-sex marriage ruling, Chris Christie attacked it. He called it a “bad decision,” “just another example of judicial supremacy,” and “incredibly insulting.”
That’s boilerplate Republican rhetoric, sure. But for most Republican elected officials, such statements are all but mandatory, because they reflect the views of the constituency which elected them. This is not so with Christie, however. Last year, he vetoed a same sex marriage bill, in spite of the fact that 62 percent of New Jersey voters approve of gay marriage. Even my senior citizen, devout Catholic, extremely conservative New Jersey parents (back in the day, they were Goldwaterites) don’t care much about gay marriage one way or the other anymore. So for Christie, his homophobia does seem like it’s truly a matter of conviction.
History will put those public figures who opposed same sex marriage in the same noxious moral category as the racist Southern gargoyles (Bull Connor, Lester Maddox, and the like) who opposed civil rights. Governor Christie has once again made it clear which side he is on, and unlike so many of his ilk, he lacks the excuse of political expediency. Sometimes what you see really is what you get.
UPDATE: I’m just seeing this story: on Friday, Christie vetoed a bill that would have enacted one of the most important provisions of President Obama’s health care reform: expanded Medicaid coverage. I’m saddened by this, and also, frankly, surprised. In what political universe could this be described as the action of a moderate? Even I didn’t think Christie would go this far.