Does New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie represent the future of the Republican Party? At the Republican National Committee’s summer meeting in South Boston, many GOP operatives are hailing him as the party’s savior. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus vows that the GOP will become a national force again — including being competitive in liberal New England.
For many establishment Republicans, Mr. Christie holds the key to unlocking the Democrats’ iron grip on the Northeast. He is articulate, aggressive and charismatic. More importantly, polls show that the Republican is heading toward a landslide re-election later this year. His appeal cuts across the political spectrum. Republicans, Democrats and independents — an overwhelming majority of them (at least, in New Jersey) — support the governor’s tax-cutting, pro-growth agenda. Under President Obama, national Republicans have been wandering in the wilderness. Mr. Christie’s bipartisan success is seductive to a party desperate to return to power.
They are wrong. If Mr. Christie becomes the GOP’s presidential nominee in 2016, it will spark an internal civil war — one that will tear the Republican Party apart. Contrary to media spin, the New Jersey governor is not a Reaganite conservative. Rather he is the very opposite: a country club Republican, a typical moderate, Northeastern governor masquerading as a small-government reformer. Mr. Christie has cut taxes, nibbled around the edges of government spending and reined in some of the public-sector unions.
Yet, on most issues he is a RINO — a Republican in name only. He favors amnesty for illegal immigrants. He has signed multiple gun-control measures. He supports the Environmental Protection Agency, even though it is imposing draconian regulations that stifle business and economic growth. He has refused to join other states in calling for Obamacare to be defunded. No wonder he is quickly becoming the favorite Republican of the liberal elite. He is the John McCain of our time — a so-called “maverick” who is used by Democrats as a stick to bludgeon conservatives with in the culture war, but will be dumped like a cheap date when it is convenient.
Most importantly, Mr. Christie’s greatest crime — one for which should not be forgiven — was his decision to embrace Mr. Obama in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The New Jersey governor did more than plunder American taxpayers by requesting (and receiving) a massive relief package loaded with pork-barrel spending. He did more than simply hold a high-profile photo-op with the president shortly before the November election. Mr. Christie aided and abetted the most radical president in U.S. history. He repeatedly praised and stroked Mr. Obama’s ego, providing him with a personal tour of the Jersey shore. Mr. Christie gave the president the one thing he desperately needed: the veneer of bipartisan cooperation. In short, the New Jersey governor stabbed the GOP in the back. He sacrificed his party’s and country’s interests for short-term political gain.
This is why Mr. Christie will not — and should not — get the GOP nomination. He may be popular with Republican elites, but he is rightly despised by the grass roots. There is another reason to shun him in 2016: Moderates can’t win. For decades, the liberal media narrative has been that Republicans must abandon their conservative roots in order to forge a majority coalition. That is false. In fact, when national Republicans run as unabashed conservatives, they win. Ronald Reagan rolled up two decisive victories in 1980 and 1984. The Gingrich Republicans swept both houses of Congress in 1994. George W. Bush — with his stress on tax cuts, entitlement reform and social conservatism — won in 2000 and 2004. He may have governed as a Great Society Republican, but he campaigned as a Middle American populist.
Establishment Republicans, however, have gone down in flames. Bill Clinton defeated George H.W. Bush. Bob Dole lost in 1996. Mr. McCain was trounced in 2008. Mitt Romney was beaten in 2012. In fact, the media insisted that Mr. Romney, another moderate from a blue state, was the “most electable” of the GOP candidates. He wasn’t. A solid, articulate conservative could have won. The reason is obvious: When confronted between a Democrat and a Democrat-lite, voters will always pick the real thing.
If Republicans end up choosing Mr. Christie, then they deserve to lose in 2016. Albert Einstein is said to have defined insanity as repeatedly doing the same thing and expecting a different result. Mr. Christie should stay in New Jersey. The GOP has had enough RINOs. It’s time for conservatives to take back their party — and America.
Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a radio commentator on WRKO AM-680 in Boston.