As I’ve written previously on here, I used to like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. A lot. I loved his brash and bellicose personality. I loved how he would yell at people, from members of the media to constituents and non-constituents alike. Most of all, I saw him as a regular Northeastern guy who didn’t take any guff from anyone and just did his job accordingly.
Yes, I have my share of political disagreements with him on a myriad of issues ranging from not building the new tunnel under the Hudson River to abortion and Obamacare. But before Christie ran for president, he used to hold moderate positions on issues that would be considered sacrosanct for the Republican Party. For instance, Christie acknowledges that humans significantly contribute to climate change, and in the past indicated at least some support for doing something about it. Regarding gun control, Christie did in fact implement some significant new measures while serving as Governor of New Jersey (he also vetoed several other reforms passed by a Democratic State Legislature).
On immigration, while he never actually elucidated a specific position on the issue prior to running for president, he did nominate former New Jersey Attorney General Jeff Chiesa to serve in Frank Lautenberg‘s Senate seat after Lautenberg’s death in June of 2013. Before current Senator Cory Booker took Chiesa’s place in November of 2013, Chisea voted yea on the Gang of Eight Immigration Bill. That spurred my hope that Christie would at least follow Jeb Bush’s position on this important issue and advocate for a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants who have not committed any violent crimes. Sadly, not only has he gone in the opposite direction of Jeb Bush, he is now heading straight for Trump-ville.
Over the weekend, Governor Christie made an absolutely idiotic suggestion that the U.S. should track immigrants like FedEx packages. Not only is this a wrongheaded idea that would be extremely complicated to implement, it is inhumane and deranged. I really expected better of Governor Christie.
I know I shouldn’t be surprised by this development. I remember saying the exact same thing about Mitt Romney four years ago. Instead of standing up for himself and defending his moderate views, Romney capitulated to the very conservative wing of the GOP and recanted any moderate position he once held. As David Frum, a Canadian-American columnist for The Atlantic, put it the day after Mitt Romney lost the presidency, “the people who put the cement shoes on [Romney’s] feet are now blaming [Romney] for sinking.” Whether it was on healthcare reform, abortion, immigration or gun control, Mitt Romney pretended to be “severely conservative” because he knew that was the only way to win the Republican primary.
But frankly, I expected better of Governor Christie. Romney was obviously going to make himself malleable to the demands of the ardent conservatism that has a stranglehold on the GOP today. But Christie has stood up to his party before. Back in 2011, Governor Christie nominated a man named Sohail Mohammed to the New Jersey Superior Court in Passaic County. In case you couldn’t tell by his name, Sohail Mohammed is a Muslim (of Indian descent). This of course sent several conservative pundits in a frenzy, claiming that Christie was ignoring the dangers of Sharia Law becoming more widespread in the U.S. Not only did Governor Christie outright reject this insane and flat-out false conspiracy, he called the people who were pushing it (people in his own party) crazy. After Governor Christie lamented how he was “tired of the crazies” during a press conference (see video below), MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell played the clip on his show and he and his staff gave Governor Christie a standing ovation.
After watching this brutal take-down repeatedly, I finally saw a glimmer of hope in the Republican Party. It was reminiscent of the time John McCain told a woman who called (then Senator) President Obama an “Arab” that she was just plain wrong. I finally saw a guy who was going to force the Republican Party to accept reality and not cower in the face of illegitimate (and frankly, racist) criticism. But all that went out the door this past weekend.
Again, I was not expecting Christie to moderate himself on issues like taxes, social security, public spending, Obamacare and abortion. I get that Christie is running to be the nominee of an extremely conservative Republican Party. But by going the route of Trump on an extremely important issue like immigration, an issue that could actually bring about a stronger Republican Party, Christie is now dead to me. Now, of course Governor Christie is not going to care what I think one way or the other because I’m a Democrat and he has other people to persuade (people who exist mainly in New Hampshire). But Christie is doing himself and his presidential campaign a great disservice by suggesting ludicrous and moronic ideas like tracking people. Worst of all, Christie sees nothing wrong in comparing human beings to FedEx packages.