The Real Significance of the 2013 Elections

chris-christie-355The real news is not that Chris Christie was reelected Governor of New Jersey. It’s the role that voter perception is beginning to exert.

Certainly, for months, the gaggle of goofiness that is right-wing media kept assuring their flock that ONLY by embracing wackobird extremism could they win. Christie was among those disparaged as a RINO — Republican In Name Only — the third-biggest insult they can muster. (Behind their toxic smears of Anything-Obama, and Democrat Party.)

Yet Christie won reelection by the widest margin in the state since 1985, with 60% of the vote. He’s the first Republican in a quarter-century to capture more than 50% of the New Jersey electorate for any office, state or national. President Obama’s reelection victory carried New Jersey by more than 17 points –  and that was his biggest margin in any of the 50 states.

Meanwhile, Teapublican Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia’s Attorney General, lost the contest for that state’s governorship to Democratic Party insider / Clinton crony / businessman Terry McAuliffe.  Granted, it was a slim 48-45 percent victory. McAuliffe was not an especially attractive candidate. But what may be the most significant thing to take away is this: the Democrat’s win breaks a long Virginia tradition (going back to 1977) of the state electing a governor from the opposing party of the sitting president.

In New Jersey, Christie openly presented the gauntlet to slap his party’s Tea-surgency, during the campaign and in his pair of victory speeches. Christie declared his decisive win “should be a lesson for the nation’s broken political system” and for his “feuding party.”

Today’s New York Times had the essential demographics, before the full counts are available: “In a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by over 700,000, Mr. Christie won a majority of the votes of women and Hispanics and made impressive inroads among younger voters and blacks — groups that Republicans nationally have struggled to attract.”

For progressives, there is plenty not to like about the nation’s physically largest governor. As the NY Times acknowledged, “The governor prevailed despite holding positions contrary to those of many New Jersey voters on several key issues,  including same-sex marriage, abortion rights and the minimum wage, and despite an economic recovery that has trailed the rest of the country.”

In New Jersey, Democrats will conduct a post-mortem. Everywhere else, it’s not too soon to begin opposition research. While he is the bane of the Teapublicans, what accounts for Christie luring the votes of moderates and the traditional Democratic Party base, when he is way to the right of their views?

“He attracted a broad coalition by campaigning as a straight-talking, even swaggering, leader who could reach across the aisle to solve problems,” wrote the Times, in an almost dismissive summation.

But not so fast. There’s an essence here, an underlying message we ignore at our peril: what’s perceived to be so is more important than objective reality.

larry-wines-formalSignificant? Yes, when we consider three factors:

  • Christie’s likely 2016 bid for the GOP nomination — which he will get if traditional Republicans recapture their party.
  • America’s proven unwillingness to keep the Democrats in the presidency after two-terms.
  • Popular perception — style, not substance — put Ronald Reagan in the White House.

Larry Wines

Wednesday 6 November 2013

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