Saturday, November 9, 2013

Of Democrats & Jersey City & The Christie Coronation

Here’s Chris Christie in Jersey City, perhaps the first time he was ever here.
Not yet Governor, he is on his float at the 2009 Puerto Rican parade. Corzine was there at the parade too, his float far away from the GOP rival. Corzine was in the crowd and shaking hands with the people, nobody cared really. Democrats voted for Corzine out of loyalty, who could actually like the guy?

Christie never left the float. Was Christie greeted by boos and jeers? It was not that kind of day, politics are always a parade subtext but never in the spotlight and besides, it was still August. The election was more than two months away. The city was still reeling by the arrests of 13 city officials in the sting operation Christie led. Everyone was enjoying the annual party our Puerto Rican friends and neighbors throw for our city. And, by some I’m sure happy coincidence, Christie’s float was behind the National Guard contingent. Any boo of Christie could be taken for a boo against our troops – in 2009, we were still fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. The placement really didn’t matter. No one in our blue town seem to notice the Republican anyway.

I disliked him then almost as much as I do now. But, I’m a liberal. I’m not trying to convince you to be anything other than what you are. I’m just being honest.

 What are we to make about Chris Christie’s win, which was more coronation than actual election. I was reminded of that line about how can Ronald Reagan win landslides when nobody I know voted for him.

Yet, our state voted for a the Minimum Wage Law, one of the most economically progressive laws ever to be passed by plebiscite. The wage was increased, and tied to inflation so increases are now automatic. It is a law a right winger like Christie opposes and has even vetoed.

How could our state vote both left and right in the same election. Actually, New Jersey is fickle and elections are often bifurcated. I believe we hold the record for splitting the ticket in the ballot office. New Jersey I love you and I hate you and there are times like today I can’t tell which feeling is the one I’m feeling.

There’s no making sense of it, but maybe I’ll try anyway.

I’ve been thinking and thinking about this election and some kind of blog. I’m a Democrat and hold out hope that a new New Deal will someday dawn.

I’ve been let down.

I wish I could say this was the first time New Jersey has disappointed me. It has been a half century of me witnessing the majority of my fellow garden state citizens sticking then keeping their collective head up their collective ass. I would like to say this reelection of Christie takes the cake but that cake was taken way back in high school and politically at least it’s been one mistake of yours that we wind up regretting after another.

 Politics are ultimately trite and disappointing, but it’s really all we got to make our society more just and equitable.

Barbara Buono seemed like a perfectly good candidate – okay, not really – she did not have the money, funding, party-support or charisma of Corey Booker, who should have run against Christie. But then, who should have led the campaign to keep the Senate seat if Corey actually let ideals and integrity win over his unfathomable personal ambition?

The Democratic party has been depleted. Their New Jersey Bench and the best the farm team could do was the sacrificial lamb of a competent but bland politician. The reasons for the current dearth of Democratic leaders goes back more than a decade.

Maybe it was Clinton era complicity than everybody running in fear of how they will appear by saying fellatio is not an issue, the economy is doing great and it’s because Reagonomics somewhat alleviated by the Deficient Reduction Act (1993), the Balanced Budget Act (1998) and the Pay as You Go Congress.

 You get this feeling that when Lautenberg was forced out for being too old, a perfect storm set in.

 Bill Bradley, always a gas bag and a bit of a turd, somehow lost interest in politics be the end of the 1990s but decided  as his last hurrah an act of betrayal, opposing Al Gore and forcing an expensive and distracting primary. Before Nader and Florida, Bradley’s move gave us the Bush II administration, a reign of darkness that ruined our economy and decimated the middle class and whose polices will take another 20 years at least to alleviate.

Torricelli never saw a bribe too low to accept, Corzine was chosen first as Senator, because he had his own money, coattails local democrats could ride for at least an election cycle or two.  and then McGreevy I’m a proud Gay American governor, who I always thought was a very good governor, but had scandals other than sexuality that drove him out of office. Corzine was the best we could do for the Governor and a revitalized but aged Lautenberg was ready to get back in the game. Thank God for that, few in the Senate had the courage to stand up to George W. Bush the way he did.

But N. J. dems have a habit of getting in their own way.

So Christie walloped Corzine, who then pursued a second career as a corporate embezzler. Nobody was really left on a state-wide basis to challenge Christie.

My point is that on that state-wide basis, our blue state democratic party had a kind of perfect storm where the people were true and blue but were so lacking in leadership that an aged Lautenberg returned – what a fine old warrior – while Booker, who has innate gifts for fundraising and commanding spotlights, rose in prominence. That perfect storm eventually led to 2013 Christie coronation and a depleted roster of Democrats, none of whom are known  or doing anything to get known for outside their local constituencies.

The fate of the nation now stands in the balance and what happens in Jersey City will determine the future of America (just kidding, we will probably determine little but I can’t resist the comically grandiose).

In Jersey City, the Friday before Election day, a woman was frantically handing out brochures by the PATH. It was for the Board of Election. In order to increase turnout for Board of Election elections, it was decided they would now be held in November.

She frowned and apologized when I said, oh I hoped these were Barbara Buono cards. I was looking for a Buono picture, a sign, somewhere but somebody in the party faithful. Our town was lousy with BOE brochures, but Buono or any of the candidates for state office, no where until I met this fine gentlemen, Tony, from NORTH CAROLINA, he just moved here, has a wife and a kid on the way and why is he involved with the election. “Christie is closing schools, that’s my issue.” The one democrat in our historically democratic city visibly supporting the democratic candidate for governor is not even from New Jersey. He was nice guy and he hasn’t yet lived long enough in “chill town” to have lost his ideals.
In Jersey city, there was no office for the Buono campaign and in fact, I saw no visible electioneering by Buono or Christie in Jersey City. Not even a campaign office where people could get buttons or volunteer to get out the vote!

 Somebody body told that Booker appeared with Buono at Bright Street Tavern, an event far from a rally and our mayor and council did not make an appearance.

 Where were the Governor brochures? Where is our Democratic mayor or council people stumping for Buono? The BOE election, which I believe is the first time this election is now part of official Election Day voting, is the only election story being told by the Jersey City press. Our Democratic office holders were shamefully silent. Buono has been a no-show, as has Christie, in Jersey City. Where was the debate hosted in Jersey City, where was the Rally, the campaign appearance?

Where were the reporters writing about Fulop’s silence?

Why was the Jersey City Voice in this election not being heard?

We are the second largest city in New Jersey, the fastest growing – with all the development, economic activity, problems and issues that designation entails – and we have been ignored, and our leaders have kept us invisible and we the people have let it happen.

Jersey City can be easily self-satisfied and tends not to gaze beyond its reflection in its mirror.

Shouldn’t Jersey City be some kind of election stop for the Governor’s Race? We are a major city in the state.

Jersey is still a union town, or as much of one as can a city can be in a country where one party – that would be Christie’s – is waging constant war on the workings. Thousands of our citizens are members of unions – construction workers, electricians, supermarket employees, butchers, policemen, firemen, municipal, state and federal workers, postal employees and teachers, who Christie has castigated publically with relentless libel – the list goes on. What prevented our union class from getting permit and organizing a rally for Buono regardless of what local politicians were doing with their election season endorsements?

Oh wait, did I just answer my own question?

The collusion that led to the Christie coronation occurred in many forms and by many parties. What cannot be claimed is that the collusion was entered into unknowingly.

Here was my post-election FB rant: Where are the Friends of Steve Flop when it comes to our governor race? Why did Jersey City leaders enable the election of somebody who opposes marriage equality? Thanks to you, our elected DEMOCRATIC officials, and the local “NEWS” media, instead of an election, we have a Christie coronation, this homophobic enemy of the poor and middle class could go on to be (SHUDDER) our next president!!! Work locally, think globally – it seems those active in politics in Jersey City have No thoughts beyond their own petty needs (Re-Val!). So much for your pleas to “GET INVOLVED.” Your narrow mindedness, lack of ideals and never holding politicians accountable once they are in office regarding state-wide and national issues have diminished the democratic process and make Jersey City nothing more than a place where the condo-mortgage industry can make lots of money.

As a politician, Christie is amazing. He constructed a sting that bagged mostly democratic politicians, but safeguarded the construction industry from investigation for bribery. No one wanted to back Buono because of potential repercussions. Booker made some token appearances, but he did not bring in the banks and wall street backers who funded his run, and of course, our own current mayor.

 Even if Christie doesn’t win, or even run, for the 2016 presidential race, New Jersey is now in play. We’re officially purple. More democratic money will have to be spent here, something that hasn’t happened since Dukakis, depleting resources that should be spent in real battleground states. Christie being coronated Governor supposedly gives a blow to the Tea Party, which has always been a sham, Koch-brothers funded candidates spreading the myth of a grass roots movement. The reality is that Christie is a right wing freak and instead of a progressive agenda, we get a regressive agenda in New Jersey, art spending will go down, our healthcare costs are already up because of not having that Medicaid sharing thing, and no jobs are being created because of policies that favor the investor class over the working class.

It’s the trickle down scheme, give the rich lower tax rates but there’s no inventive for guiding the dollars investors are given by government to make capital investments that result in domestic job creation. Make the rich richer and when it is pointed out there’s no new jobs and wages keep going down it’s the jobless who lack the gumption to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and the only answer is less government spending.

 Oppressive laws that now will be considered “moderate” and favorable to the radical right, but in the end are the same as any tea party agenda and the democratic leadership, like Mayor Fulop, have let this happen knowing that their deal with Christie means that they can be reelected and they don’t have to waste their time or “political capital” on Buono.

But any sort of MEANINGFUL gains for working people will now be blocked by state-wide laws. Democrats have been ill-served by our leaders, it started with the Corzine debacle, then Booker unwillingness to run for Governor, and now we have an absence of a roster of qualified Dem candidates for state-wide offices’ but individual Dems can hold on to their seats. Democratic voters are now fated to become as cynical as our Democratic officeholders.

About 60 percent of Hudson County and Jersey City voted for Buono. She won here by a landslide, actually a bigger margin than Christie won the state.

Jersey City turn out for Christie Coronation was about 29 percent, only slightly higher than the 2009 election. Turnout for this year’s Mayoral race was about 27 percent.

This means that Jersey City hates Christie more than they like Fulop by a rate of 2 percent.

Okay, that’s a joke. Make of these turnout statists what you will. At the same time I am proud of our turnout against Christie, I’m disgusted that less than a third of voters actually vote.

Fulop won anyway. He controls our schools. His BOE slate was elected. Christie may have won statewide, Jersey City proved to be loyal democrats and he didn’t have to dirty his hands by actually endorsing the candidate. His words could have come around him to haunt him, his lack of support for Buono likely not.

None of the local media had the integrity to report on his silence and snub, and I am sure the real estate and Team Fulop team campaign advertising had nothing to do with these editorial choices.

I don’t mean to pick on our mayor, he was not alone in his silence and snub. His strategy was the most popular one among N.J. Dems. Even our president and other national democratic were a no-show in the New Jersey race. Christie has some serious clout.

Yes it was cynical, but it was unquestionably successful. He enabled the Christie coronation, but the city machine technically delivered democratic votes. Our Mayor had his cake and ate it too.

 Buono lost, the democratic party was dealt a devastating blow on the statewide and national level, and a republican has strengthened his power in a once blue state. But Jersey City democrats have retained their power and got the Board of Education they wanted to boot.

Barbara Buono said it best I her concession speech. “The Democratic political bosses — some elected, some not — made a deal with this governor despite him representing almost everything they’re against. They didn’t do it for the state. They did it to help themselves politically and financially. But we did it our way, and I’m proud of that.”

Of course, the endorsement by silence was not just in the Garden State. Apparently, President Obama had better things to do than strengthen N.J.’s democratic and weaken a 2016 presidential contender. Of course, Obama came out to support Healy in the Mayor’s race and that did not work out very well. Barak has rode a wave of unprecedented popularity into office, but as leader his mojo continues to fade.

At every Groove on Grove this summer, a jug was passed around requesting spare change with the explanation that the state was cutting funds and no one was sure if they would be back. Art organizations all across town are short of cash and there is some state funding component for every city-sponsored art event. Arts are an economic engine for cities. An arts and artist friendly municipal government is something Jersey City is known for; those policies will not continue or at least have a harder time to continue post-Christie coronation. He is not pro-arts and certainly not pro-state funding of arts programs.

Our press covers every art opening and function – the Studio Arts tour is probably the biggest event of the year – yet this issue was never raised during the campaign, was never part of the debate. None of the local media asked any city official if they worried about arts funding under the second Christie regime.

Obviously, Christie is popular. He’s a celebrity. I sometimes think the undercurrent of celebrity enthusiasm that drove California to vote for Arnold helped with Christie’s unprecedented reelection. This makes Hudson County the Berkley of New Jersey, but Christie is somebody you either like or hate and there are more people who like him and that like is beyond party.

American’s do not like introspection and as such, we tend to develop or adhere to coherent political philosophies, at least on the left. The right has no problem fighting class wars, and they know whose side they’re on and they are adept at covering the perpetration of their economic crimes with media-friendly platitudes like kinder, gentler nation or compassionate conservatism. We vote for the man and Christie speaks to our inner arrogant frat boy sense of entitlement.

Three years after his appearance at our Puerto Rican parade, Christie returned to Jersey City to speak at the Fulop inauguration. Dozens of gay couples showed up at City Hall on the Midnight on Monday Marriage Equality became legal in New Jersey to be married by our mayor, yet when the homophobic Christie, who opposed marriage equality, came to Jersey City, the Jersey City Gay Pride did not feel the need to display their pride. No protests, no jeers, not even a sign from the LGBT community. Organizing annual block parties with bands and beverages is one thing, but at Steve’s inauguration, the out and proud community willingly went back into the closet.

When Christie did speak, that’s when I understood why Christie is popular and why we may vote against him, but our leaders, organizations, unions fail to form coalitions against him. Media appearance, Christie is an embarrassment. His sounds bites show an obnoxious bully, some find it endearing, others, like me, are appalled. I see him on the Sandy commercials and I taste bile in the back of my mouth.

But at the inaugural, Christie’s speech captivated. His was the best of night, by far and without question. I found my self involuntarily clapping, well almost. It was strange, the speech was not political really and entirely lacked depth. The occasion did not call for anything more than pleasant platitudes everyone could support. Empty rhetoric appealing to our shared love of New Jersey. What was strange and surprising was the instant, if temporary evaporation my animosity towards this man.

 He is a remarkable orator, much more warm and engaging then he comes off in front of the camera. On camera he seems to throw red meat and there’s enough people around to eat it up. The clips on the news you either are hate or love, and state-wide at least, there’s more in the latter camp and basically most of Hudson County in the former. But in person, he engages and he’s warm. This was not a meet and greet or a stump speech, so maybe he’s as divisive in those settings as he is in sound bite. Well, I pray he is, but I kind of doubt it. This guy knows how to speechify.

Christies has admirable political skills, even though what he supports is despicable. The force is strong with him. The power of the force can be used for good or evil and he is on the dark-side big time, he serves Emperor Ronald Reagan or the Reagan dream of a two-tiered society, where the rich get richer and the poor suffer because that is what they are good at. He’s a Kingfish of the right. He has more political skills than George W. Bush. He is in the rare league with Clinton, Reagan, Kennedy – not as a leader, he seems nothing more than a tool of the wealthy – but as a politician. He can inspire followers, he can wield power, make deals with other leaders. He can give a speech in city that voted against him in droves and receive applause and accolades.

Christie was the type of Republican every Democrat should have vocally opposed and the national party should have sent in the troops. Instead we get Buono who was ignored, except by 60 percent of 29 percent of Hoboken voters.

A less charismatic but successful in his time Democrat was Eugene McCarthy. During the 1968 election, when the Vietnam war was at its height he was the major antiwar candidate, especially after RFK was assassinated. Neat & Clean for Gene was the credo. Hippies, Yippies, SDS, would cut their hair, lower their freak flag and campaign for the only candidate promising to immediately stop the war. McCarthy lost, but the winner, Hubert Humphrey had an anti-war platform mainly because of McCarthy’s ability to inspire support. Nixon won with his Peace With Honor campaign, and the war waged on another seven years, the bloodiest period of this prolonged conflict.

In 1980, McCarthy led the Democrats for Ronald Reagan faction that split the party. He weakened any support for Jimmy Carter. McCarthy was a New Dealer when he was a young politician, an ardent supporter of the Great Society. I do not know his biography well enough to know why he made this decision to support a leader that would work to destroy any legislation his constituency put him office to support , and a leader who would put into motion a military build-up that shook off American’s reluctance to war – known as the Vietnam Syndrome – Reagan’s successor Bush II got us into the first Gulf War, beginning more than 20 years of American troop involvement in the Mid-East.

This off-year Governor race reminded me of McCarthy’s sad tale.

Some New Jersey democrats endorsed Christies, most were like our Hudson County, kept their silence and merely snubbed Buono. If politics is about holding office, their behavior is admirable. It worked. Christie was going to win anyway. One coronation won’t lead to the fall of the republic, will it?

But if politics is about making legislative reality out of the political ideals a population holds dear, such as justice and equality, then the actions of our the New Jersey Democratic leadership during the 2013 election is deplorable. It is Eugene McCarthy, throwing away everything he ever stood for political gain, in his case – and I do not know the facts – he got a national spotlight that he had lost in the 1970s. Whatever the motivation, he enabled the election of a leader who put into place anti-working class and pro-war policies and of course, gave a critical blow to the Democratic party that it took more than a decade to heal.

Which was worse, those non-Hudson County democrats who publically supported Christie, or those Hudson County Democrats who were merely silent. I do not know. Wait, probably the biggest disappointment, although unexpected, was our press, who failed to cover the campaign in any meaningful way. They made the silence the easy option. We expect politicians to develop strategies that keep them in elective office. Democracy is diminished by the press when willingly or not, become part of that strategy.

But when less than a third of the population votes, then we get the leaders we deserve. At least we got a minimum wage law we actually deserve.

There’s only one way to make sense of politics – or maybe to keep some semblance of sanity when attempting to make sense of politics – there’s more to politics than voting and more to life than politics.

And the sea rolled over them all like it has for 5,000 years.


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