New Jersey Governor Chris Christie won an easy victory in his bid for re-election last night — there’s absolutely no denying that. So Republicans all around the country should be full of joy and jubilation over the fact that a Republican won decisively in a very “blue” state, right?
Not so fast.
Granted, I’m sure Republicans will try to spin his victory as something impressive, and in some areas it is. Almost all polling data coming from his re-election showcases a candidate who might be quite the formidable GOP threat for president in 2016.
But there’s just one problem — Chris Christie isn’t a “real” Republican. Sure, he’s a Republican to liberals and most sane people in this country. He’s anti-abortion, anti-gun regulation (though he’s supported regulation in the past), he believes in tax breaks for the rich, is anti-union and despite same-sex marriage now being legal in New Jersey—he really doesn’t support it.
However, that being said, he’s not a real Republican in today’s sense. See, in 2013 (headed into 2014 and beyond) the tea party controls the base of the GOP. And the tea party doesn’t deal in reality, they deal in delusion and propaganda. In their minds they “won” the government shutdown battle. They believe candidates like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are “exactly what Americans want”—despite the fact that polling data shows them to be highly unpopular nationally and they’ve been absolute embarrassments for the GOP these last couple of months.
For about a year now, most credible polling data has pointed to Chris Christie being the best possible candidate for the GOP in 2016 (though he still loses to Hillary Clinton in most credible polls). But the question is, “Will he ever be their candidate?”
And quite frankly, I believe the answer is no.
You really think the GOP, as radically right as it’s shifted, is going to support a candidate who allowed same-sex marriage to be legalized in his state? Granted, he didn’t sign off on it, but you know how conservatives are with facts. Homosexuals can get married in New Jersey and during a primary election, that’ll be a headline used against him. And not only that, but do you really believe Republicans are going to support a candidate who has shown a willingness to work with President Obama?
To many Republicans, any attempt to work with President Obama is absolutely unforgivable, punishable by banishment from the GOP.
Heck, the tea party is trying to “primary” Republican members of Congress right now who signed off on ending the government shutdown. Do you really think those people are going to support a man who had the audacity to hug President Obama — and be photographed doing so (the horror!) — after Hurricane Sandy?
If this all sounds absurd, it’s because it is.
Chris Christie, while I don’t agree with him on much, is the exact kind of Republican the GOP should be embracing. Instead, he’s the kind of Republican hardcore conservatives and the tea party loathe. To them he’s not a “real” Republican. He’s not a “real” conservative.
So, while Republicans (specifically tea party Republicans) continue to try to convince themselves that the way to win elections is by picking a “true” conservative like Ted Cruz, almost all evidence says they should be flocking towards conservatives like Chris Christie instead of tea party-supported politicians.
And this denial of reality is what will ultimately lead to the end of the GOP. After Christie’s overwhelming Republican victory in a “blue” state, you’re going to have quite a few Republicans coming to realize that they must become more moderate (especially on social issues) if they want to remain relevant as a national political party. Yet, on the other hand, you have the hardcore conservatives driving the party towards candidates who are simply batshit crazy. Look at how that turned out for tea party sweetheart Ken Cuccinelli in Virginia last night.
What I’m really curious to see is how Christie will handle himself in the GOP primaries. Because at that moment he’ll have a choice to make: will he pander to the far-right tea party types in his party to try to put himself in the best position possible to secure the nomination, or will he choose to be who he is now? Because in the scheme of things with today’s GOP, Christie is fairly moderate. He’s shown himself to be a man who’s not afraid to call out members of his own party and the right-wing radicalization of the GOP.
That’s the choice many Republicans face right now. Aim to win the general election by appearing more moderate (risking losing their primary battles) or pander to the tea party radicals and risk losing the general election.
Either way, Chris Christie’s win last night might be the biggest tipping point yet that splits the GOP in two. On one hand we’ll have those who see his potential, study the numbers and understand his “type” of Republican is what their party needs. On the other hand we’ll have the tea party radicals who often deny reality and ignore facts, simply basing rules and reason on whatever desire they’ve built up in their delusional minds.
Who would have thought, a governor from New Jersey might be the very person who truly tears the Republican party apart.
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