A new prototype for the GOP
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s failed presidential bid, the Republican governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, has emerged as both a leader in the struggling region and of a battered GOP.
While Democrats and Republicans have been busy driving a wedge down the already wide partisan gap, Christie showered praise on President Barack Obama as thanks for authorizing a pre-landfall emergency declaration to prepare New Jersey for Hurricane Sandy. In an article by The Huffington Post, the declaration would “expedite federal assistance for the state,” which in turn would “allow New Jersey to start requesting federal funds and other aid in advance of the storm.”
This kind of bipartisanship would normally be praiseworthy if not for the election. It’s a problem for a Republican nominee when a supporter like Christie actively praises the other candidate for his swift response to a major disaster. It was this praise that Politico attributed to Republican Paul Ryan being Romney’s vice-presidential candidate over Christie. A recent Time magazine article by Michael Crowley went even further by saying “Christie’s post-Sandy embrace of Obama provoked the ire of Republicans.”
This kind of behavior is what makes Christie so endearing as a person and gave him so much potential as a candidate. His vivid candor and street-level dialect makes him a man of the working class. He specializes in a rarely practiced brand of politics that many Republican politicians have abandoned. Christie’s “common-sense conservatism,” as described by Reihan Salam of CNN, appeals to the broader base of conservatives. OnTheIssues.org, a nonpartisan website dedicated to researching and recording the stances of politicians, says Christie has hit a middle-road on many of his policies.
He takes traditional conservative stances (no to same-sex marriage) but gives compromises (yes to civil unions). On abortion, he avoids the religious context most other conservative politicians deliver. Instead, he gave a personal account to Piers Morgan on CNN about how he adopted a pro-life stance upon hearing his daughter’s first heartbeat.
There are no talking points for Christie to memorize, and there’s no need for him to scribble down notes on his palm just so he doesn’t screw up — and he does screw up. His candidness has gotten him into hot water more than enough times, perhaps most famously in 2011 during the Hurricane Irene evacuation when he berated beach goers.
Christie is in no way a master wordsmith: Instead of a silver tongue, he brandishes a bronze mace covered with intentions. There’s no way he can weasel his way through anything.
That is what makes him a preferred model of the new conservative politician. Sneaky wording is no match for pure honesty. Christie doesn’t beat around the bush, and even if that means he occasionally steps into a big, stinking pile, it doesn’t matter to the largely liberal and largely democratic residents of New Jersey. According to a recent NBC report, Christie now has a 73 percent approval rating, and while much of that has come from the high of his relief efforts toward Sandy, he wasn’t exactly hated. A November report from CBS showed his pre-Sandy approval rating at 48 percent — not bad for a Republican in a Democratic stronghold.
Hopefully, other rising Republicans will follow Christie’s model of leadership because the GOP ship is sinking fast. The loss in the November election was a large blow to the egos of Republican politicians, and many conservative voters are now looking elsewhere to cast their votes. The blind-eyed partisan politics have sunk Congress’s approval ratings into around the low double digits — and even into the single digits. If the GOP has any hopes of serving its purpose of giving conservatives representation in the government, it has to adopt the middle ground common-sense conservatism of Christie.
James Wang is a history sophomore and can be reached at [email protected]