The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza, like a lot of members of the "liberal media," is giddy at the thought of Chris Christie's likely big victory in the New Jersey governor's race. Yesterday Cillizza wrote the following in a post titled "Is Chris Christie the Republicans' Bill Clinton?":
Christie is increasingly seen as the one candidate who might be able to bridge the divide between the establishment and the tea party that is in the process of ripping the [Republican] party apart. In that way, Republicans are hoping that he can do for their side what Bill Clinton did in the early 1990s for a Democratic party that was similarly divided -- heal what looks to be an un-healable wound through force of personality and a demonstrated record of success as a governor.If you're old enough to have been there at the time, do you remember the Democratic Party being "similarly divided" in the early 1990s? Do you remember it having what appeared to be "an un-healable wound"?
Funny, I don't recall the Democrats having a left-wing Ted Cruz raising money for groups that threatened to take down fellow senators who weren't liberal enough. I don't recall Democrats living in fear of primary challenges from the far left even before this mirror-image Cruz came on the scene, primary challenges that regularly defeated incumbents and put unelectable crazy lefties on the Democratic line on November ballots. I don't recall Democrats shutting down the government in George H.W. Bush's presidency because the Democratic congressional delegation was made up of crazy lefties and people who cowered in fear of a crazy-lefty primary challenge, all spurred on by media voices whose sole purpose in life was to make Democratic voters into even crazier lefties.
Yes, you could say that the '92 Democratic primaries came down to Jerry Brown on the left and Paul Tsongas on the right, with Bill Clinton winning in the middle. But Tsongas was a fairly conventional New England Democrat apart from his deficit hawkery -- a "Massachusetts liberal," if you will. Jerry Brown, bizarrely, advocated a flat tax. However, just the fact that a deficit hawk could be as surprisingly strong as Tsongas was is proof that the party was not like the modern, litmus-test-imposing GOP. It would be like an Eisenhower Republican getting to the late stages of the GOP primaries now with a platform of massive economic stimulus.
If anything, the '88 race between Dukakis and Jesse Jackson was the real ideological battle, with Jackson advocating pure progressivism and Dukakis ultimately telling voters that his campaign "isn't about ideology -- it's about competence." But Democrats were unified coming out of the '88 convention; Dukakis lost not because of Democratic rifts, but because he had a couple of positions that were easily exploited by the nastiest presidential campaigners in postwar history up to that time, and he never fought back. He lost because he wasn't ready for a back-alley knife fight.
I'm not even going to get into the question of whether Christie, one of the Koch brothers' favorite governors, is the Great Moderate Hope for the GOP. My guess is that in 2016 he's either going to win the nomination as a wingnut or lose it as the bipartisan huggy bear he's turned himself into in the ads running relentlessly on local TV right now. He's a few inches to the left of the GOP crazies right now, and I think he's going to inch rightward after he wins -- although he may spend too much time listening to Morning Joe pundits and stop before he goes all the way to the right. In which case he'll lose.