Chris Christie is the Republican Barack Obama
by Bernie Quigley
For The Hill on 3/3/11
The Republicans are looking for an anomaly; someone joyful and charming – a happy fat man maybe; a novelty and a brief entertainment to hold off Sarah Palin. It is exactly the same situation the Democrats were in in 2008 facing a future of Hillary Clinton as candidate. Obama saved the day. He was charming, he was handsome, he was black and he reminded people a little of JFK. And he was not Hillary Clinton. Christie is charming and jolly, interesting to watch and sort of interesting to listen to compared to most Republicans (like Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum). And he is not Sarah Palin.
Republicans have been experiencing low blood sugar for so long that it has become their everyday experience. They will recall this phrase because it is from the 1950’s; the Ted Mack Amateur Hour; they have “tired blood.” It has been like this since Bob Dole.
When I interviewed William F. Buckley, Jr. many years ago he said that with Ronald Reagan conservatives experienced a dream come true. But all the excitement seems to have worn them out. Instead of the Gipper, the Republicans have become the party of the Bushes. And the Bushes are unremarkable. All of them. H.W. was nothing but a closer for Reagan and he has made the Republican Party a nostalgia party. That his son was elected was a feature of a receding self-governing temperament, just as the Hillary (wife of Bill) impulse was. Self governance had reached its lowest water mark and was beginning to grovel toward the monarchist default.
Now they are looking for somebody merely interesting to go against Obama as Obama went against Hillary. But there was no substance behind Obama and we today suffer the consequences. What we know about Christie is he effectively yells against government workers; like a New Jersey “Big Daddy.” We know little else. And the conversation keeps going back to that as if that is the core of the problem in America.
The problem in both parties is that they are beholden to the traditions; a situation reinforced by mainstream media which refuses to enter the new century and strives to repeat the past. Isn’t that what American Idol is all about? Let’s find the “new “ Michael Jackson; the “new” Elvis. There is no new Elvis. That was the idea of Elvis. He was new. You can’t be new twice. Second time around you are nostalgia which wears on the heart and wearies the mind as the Bushs and Clintons do.
The Democrats had some great people coming up eight years ago including Mark Warner, senator today and a very successful governor of Virginia. Wesley Clark, former NATO commander, as well. And Jim Webb, a truly novel warrior, writer and Reagan’s Secretary of the Navy. The Democrats had little interest in them. All they could think of was “rock stars” and escapist governors from the backwoods of Vermont like Howard Dean.
With Alaska’s Sarah Palin, with Texas governor Rick Perry, with Virginia governor Bob McDonnell, with former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, Jr. the potential today is vast and the future opens up to them. Conservatism is on the verge of being born potentially to a historic new age of self governance and it terrifies the Republicans.