Among the things that Donald Trump and Chris Christie have in common is their keen understanding that style trumps substance. While Trump is a professional entertainer, politician Christie has mastered the art as well. Too bad our Democrats in the legislature don’t realize that.
Democrats don’t have to emulate Republicans. I hope they never use their opponents as an exemplar of how to behave and communicate. But during the Christie administration, the Democrats have repeatedly lost the opportunities to effectively use the media to counter Christie’s bombast.
After every State of the State and Budget address, the Democrats trot out their leadership in a crowded conference room across the hall from their legislative chambers. Each leader drones on about one thing or another that was mentioned in the governor’s remarks. Today, The Assembly press conference featured the Speaker and three Assembly members. After statements, they answered a few questions from the press. Nothing inspiring and few sound bytes that would highlight a newscast.
The Senate flubbed their opportunity even more. The Senate President and the Majority Leader came out – no statements, just answering questions from the press. This does not give viewers any confidence that the loyal opposition has a path forward for the next year of Christie’s reign.
Granted, every legislator wants to be featured under the lights of the television cameras. But they should put their personal egos aside and take a lesson from the national GOP who choose a single speaker in a more professional setting for the rebuttal of every one of President Obama’s State of the State messages.
Of today’s speakers, I thought that Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter was the most inspirational and effective rebutter. She tied the issues facing New Jersey not only to the governor but to the pending disaster in Washington. Wouldn’t it have been more effective (and garnered more coverage) if the Democrats simply broadcast a rebuttal and alternative path forward from her State House office? I’m no media expert, but it seems that the current method of response has a lot of room for improvement.