Though it is not yet 2014, the Republican “Establishment” is already attempting to determine the party’s candidate for the 2016 presidential election. And their top picks range all the way from former Florida Governor Jeb Bush to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Any true conservatives are immediately pronounced “unelectable” and their candidacies declared dead on arrival. This assessment of the political landscape is profoundly significant, and the determinations of Republican Party insiders critically important, considering they have such a sterling track record of selecting sure winners, such as Bob Dole, John McCain, and Mitt Romney.
A vital element of their strategy has always been to play on the willingness of grassroots Republicans to accept the premise that the party must “unify” around a nominee with “broad based support” (read: a moderate), and that failure to do so will guarantee all of the horrors of a Democrat victory. It is a bit ironic that despite their professions of expertise, the GOP bigwigs have enjoyed little success in actually carrying the party to victory, and even when they do, the message is so garbled and watered down that the mandate for any truly Republican agenda no longer exists.
Nevertheless, in the wake of last month’s elections, the notion is being trumpeted that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, as a result of his landslide reelection victory, has shown the way to retake the White House. And while some conservatives may have been willing to accept this premise, based not on any real enthusiasm for Christie, but on an irrational and consuming fear of Hillary Clinton, the bloom is quickly coming off of this overblown rose. Increased scrutiny of Christie’s governing philosophy, the disconcerting reality of his “broad based appeal,” and the manner in which he continues to betray the Republican Party and conservatism in general, are proving to true conservatives that even blind pragmatism will not be sufficient to justify support for Christie.
Establishment Republicans are of course attempting to contrast Christie’s reelection success in New Jersey against the failed candidacy of Ken Cuccinelli in Virginia. But their efforts to portray the results of those races as proof of a need to shift left are as fraudulent and disingenuous as any strategy contrived by the Democrats. Sadly, the similarities between the two parties do not stop there.
While Cuccinelli did indeed lose to former Clinton Administration insider Terry McAuliffe, the deck was significantly stacked against him, and in many instances, it was by those very “Republicans” who now claim his loss as proof of the abject failure of the Tea Party movement. But their primary focus has never been the election of a fellow Republican, but to thwart any growing conservative momentum in the GOP. Thus, the party gave Cuccinelli barely a third of the financial support received by Bob McDonnell, Virginia’s outgoing Republican Governor, in his race four years ago. Add to that all of the negativity directed at Cuccinelli by Republican and “conservative” punditry (the same people who always demand that conservatives rally around “moderate” candidates in the name of party “unity”), and it is no wonder that Cuccinelli did not overcome such obstacles and prevail against the media/Democrat political machine mobilized on behalf of McAuliffe.
Yet despite the forces aligned against Cuccinelli, McAuliffe only managed a two and a half point win. Had the GOP turncoats who undercut Cuccinelli exerted even a fraction of that effort against McAuliffe, Virginia’s election results might well have swung the other way. But such an outcome would have gone directly against their overarching strategy of shifting left, and their duplicitous ongoing effort to “broaden the base” of the Republican Party by pandering to liberals.
In light of such treachery, their unrestrained adulation for Christie and his slam-dunk triumph over Democrat Barbara Buono starts to look a bit suspicious. Buono, an extremely weak candidate from the start, was abandoned by her party leaving Christie, the incumbent, virtually unchallenged. So Christie’s win hardly represents universal adulation from a largely Democrat electorate. In a New Jersey exit poll, a direct match-up between Chris Christie and Hillary Clinton revealed a startling voter preference for Clinton. In short, though Christie has done much to gain the support of Democrats in New Jersey, Clinton would certainly do more. Once again the lesson is that a Republican simply cannot out-Democrat the Democrats.
Meanwhile, Christie’s former aura outside of the GardenState has been eroding steadily as the realities of his political maneuverings and core principles become known. Early on in his first term as Governor, Christie gained enormous popularity on account of his confrontational manner, especially when dealing with the liberal media. With so many Republicans, especially those inside the Beltway, showing unwarranted deference to clearly biased liberal journalists and thus ceding the debate to them on too many occasions, Christie’s brusque and direct manner was indeed refreshing. For many people, this was presumed as equating to genuine conservatism, and interest in Christie soared.
Unfortunately for GOP insiders, the consuming Republican quest for a candidate who can win in 2016, solely on the basis of not being the Democrat, is predictably fizzling once again. Christie proved himself fully capable of duplicity when, in the final days before the 2012 election, he openly embraced an lauded Barack Obama, perhaps giving him the edge over Republican challenger Mitt Romney. Since that time, Christie has essentially signed on to Obamacare, derided conservative efforts to defund it, refused to come to the aid of Ken Cuccinelli during the critical last days of the campaign season, and tacitly shown support for same-sex “marriage.” Yet Christie assures conservatives he is one of them.
On Monday, a story broke in the New York Post asserting that Christie was not ready to support Rob Astorino, the likely Republican candidate to run against Andrew Cuomo, the current governor of New York. Attempts by the Post to get to the bottom of the controversy were dodged and evaded by members of the Christie staff. Finally, Christie offered a tepid assurance to doubters that he would indeed support the Republican, once that candidate was determined. In short, while political expediency may dictate that Christie offer a perfunctory support for his party’s candidate, it is entirely unclear that he is trusted to do so. Romney and Cuccinelli can offer their own bitter testimony to explain all of the misgivings.
In so many ways however, Christie’s devious machinations define the Washington GOP Establishment. Nothing speaks of Republican “business as usual” as strongly as this manner of betrayal of conservatism by one of the party’s most prominent members. And more than conservatism, the Constitution, or the viability of the United States of America, it is the status quo that the party insiders seek to preserve. But while their efforts may seem worthwhile among themselves, they fail to resonate with real conservatives out in the Heartland. As Christie dispels any lingering doubts that he represents the most self-serving wing of the Republican Party, his credibility among the grassroots is evaporating, and thus paving the way for a real conservative to take the field in 2016.