So Chris Christie is running for president. No surprise there. Chances are he will never inhabit the living quarters of the White House. But the election is a year and a half away and anything could happen. Suppose he does become our next president. Who would get the “credit” for this upset?
Certainly, a lot of the credit would go to Christie himself. He wants it badly and is willing to do whatever it takes (ethical or unethical) to reach the Oval Office. His whirlwind tour of the other 49 states has just begun, and he’ll throw in a couple of overseas visits to “establish” his foreign policy creds. He would win debates with Hillary Clinton on style points, and that’s sufficient as most of the electorate can be swayed on the issues.
Credit for a Christie victory would also go to whatever wealthy benefactors and industrialists bankrolled his campaign. His persona is more well-known than his policies, and it will take a lot of money and negative advertising to whitewash his failures as governor, but it can conceivably be done.
But in examining this imaginary future Christie victory, there’s another group that gets a lot of credit – the Democratic Party establishment in New Jersey and Washington. During Christie’s re-election campaign, many Democrats in the state were at best silent, and at worst working against the Democratic nominee, Barbara Buono. At the national level, those organizations poured just about all of their resources into the gubernatorial contest in Virginia, ignoring the Garden State.
Sure, there were a few loyal Democrats like Loretta Weinberg and Bonnie Watson Coleman at the state level, and Martin O’Malley and Deval Patrick at the national level who campaigned hard for Buono. But they were the exception. Even those Democrats who didn’t overtly support Christie were ambivalent about Buono. Many Democrats in the legislature enabled Christie’s draconian agenda by assuming he was being truthful when they should have known better.
One can argue that even with more enthusiastic support from Democrats, Buono would have lost anyway. We’ll never know. Maybe if other Democrats had the cojones to risk their political career as Buono did, an even stronger candidate could have been the standard bearer (I’m looking at you, Cory Booker.) A closer election, even with a Christie victory, would not have been as notable and would not have prompted the media to promote Christie as a contender.
Today, some of these previously ambivalent Democrats are railing against Christie. The national party is now spending advertising dollars to repudiate him. Where were you all in 2013?
If the arc of history puts Christie in the White House in 2017, most Democrats will throw up their hands in wonder. But they should not wonder for long. All they need to do is look in a mirror.