Wednesday, November 06, 2013


Here's the statistic that sticks in my craw regarding the victory of Chris Christie last night: 38%. That was the vote percentage for Barbara Buono, Christie's Democratic opponent. Do you know what Christine O'Donnell's vote percentage was in the 2010 Delaware Senate election? It was 40%. Both Buono and O'Donnell were running races everyone knew they'd lose, but O'Donnell was, in addition, an extremist and a lunatic. And yet she still had a higher vote percentage than Buono.

That's not intended as an insult of Buono. She tried. She said in her concession speech last night that she was betrayed by Democratic party bosses who didn't want to cross Christie out of self-interest, and she's right -- but party bosses didn't help O'Donnell very much, either. (Watch Buono's concession speech here.)

The problem is the voters. Republicans vote Republican, passionately. Democrats vote Democratic ... fitfully. Under the right circumstances, Democrats are willing to cross very, very far to the right (if not all the way to the right) to back a Kochite right-winger like Christie. Exit polls show that he got 32% of the Democratic vote, and 31% of the liberal vote. He won 60.5% of the vote even as a ballot measure raising the minimum wage won 60.8%. Exit polls also show that Hillary Clinton would beat Christie 50%-43% in a 2016 presidential matchup. But he won big anyway.

Yes, I know: the story of this election is that Republican establishmentarianism had a pretty good night, at GOP extremists' expense. But it was a struggle.

Establishment donors had to help their very conservative candidate in Alabama's 1st congressional district, Bradley Byrne, get past Don Dean Young, who thinks President Obama was born in Kenya and who told gay citizens to go "back to California" -- and Young still managed to get within 5 points of Byrne.

Weld County, the largest of 11 Colorado counties with a secession referendum on the ballot, rejected the proposal -- but six five of the eleven counties voting on secession voted yes.

And the Virginia governor's race? What the hell happened there? The wingnuts nearly got Ken Cuccinelli elected, and now they're angrily asserting that the Cooch would have won with a little more help from the party. Yes, Terry McAuliffe was no prize, but we still live in country in which a purple state can nearly elect a radical like Cuccinelli. And E.W. Jackson got 44.5% of the vote as lieutenant governor? Seriously? A guy who thinks yoga is satanic ran six and a half points better than Barbara Buono?

The wingnuts are still fired up, and they've dragged their party very, very far to the right, even if a few countervailing forces have kept it from being dragged all the way off a cliff. And this drags our politics as a whole to the right, to a point where the likes of Chris Christie can be treated as a moderate, and embraced by liberals.

And now we get to hear that Chris Christie is the living embodiment not just of what the Republican Party needs, but what America needs. I got in a brief argument yesterday on Twitter with Robert Farley of Lawyers, Guns & Money about the value for the Democratic Party of challenging Christie this year. I say it would have been worth it even if his ultimate victory was never in doubt, because now his image as a healer is being etched in stone; soon you'll try to argue that he's a bully and excessively right-wing, and swing voters nationwide will have such a good feeling about him that they simply won't believe you. The press and the GOP Establishment are in the process of turning him into what Barack Obama was as he emerged on the national stage -- someone voters really believe when he says he can heal America's divisions. Christie's reputation could have been tarnished this year; Democrats may live to regret that they never made the effort.


UPDATE: Charlie Pierce is right -- Democrats are making the same mistake with Christie that they made with George W. Bush:
[Christie] is not a "powerful national candidate." He's weak and he's insecure and you can make him pop his cork as predictably as Old Faithful. In fact, your job, Democratic panjandrums, was to make him a national candidate before he is ready to be one. It was to make him a national candidate on your timetable, not his. Define, define, define. Spend whatever it takes to do that....

[Failing to do so] is the same ghastly strategy that aided and abetted the rise of C-Plus Augustus in Texas. It was their one opportunity to bloody him up, to wound him with ridicule until he (predictably) explodes, before the tingle rises up Chris Matthews's leg.


Danp said...

When Bush tarnished the Republican brand, they created the new improved No-solution Tea Party brand. Now that this brand is tarnished the ones who stuck with Bush are back in fashion again.

Victor said...

People in NJ, like in NY, sometimes like their politicians to be assholes.

As evidence, may I present to the jury, Rudy Giuliani.

More specifically, Republican assholes.

I agree, Steve, that the Democratic Party should have thrown everything they had at Christie - if only to take him down a few notches, nationally. But for some reason, our party often doesn't think far enough ahead.

I'm sure Morning Schmoe's waxing poetic about Gov. Tony Soprano's reelection - and how close Cooch came in VA.
And it would have been best to stop, or at least slow-down, the 'Christie as a healer' narrative that the DC Villagers will now try to pound into a meme.

But remember, Rudy didn't play well to the audiences in the Real 'Murkan Heartland, back in '08.
But of course, he wasn't as socially Conservative as Christie - particularly on the issue of gays - so that may explain Rudy's poor showing in the primaries.
That, and Christie's never been photographed in a white dress, as a Marilyn Monroe wannabe, like Rudy was - MORE than once.

It'll take me some time to scrub that image of Christie in a dress, out of my head!

aimai said...

I don't think he has an "image of a healer" with anyone but nervous New Jersey-ites who felt comforted by the fat man and the thin man coming to their rescue. He actually still has plenty of time to tarnish his reputation *even in New Jersey* by fucking up the economy and the Sandy Rebuild. If I were the Democrats I might have chosen to "support" him and then just dug in and done my homework waiting for his corruption issues w/r/t the Sandy rebuild to come to a boil.

On the national scene he is liked by the right wing because he's seen as a vicious attack dog who could be a good second fiddle to a more respectable evangelical or right wing candidate. With the media of course they fantasize that he exactly tracks their centrism and their broderism and pretend that his "gruff" non nonsens exterior hides a heart of gold. But he's not going to run on that. Not even close. He is going to have to run on "I hate the Democrats as much as you do" and when he does that he's going to make it impossible for the Dems to imagine dreamily that he might be a bastard but he's really our bastard.

Of course eventually Chris Matthews will be dissapointed and he's stare at the camera and say, with wounded self pity "I really thought Christie was pretending when he said..." or "I really thought Christie was the solution, but now I see he's part of the problem..."

There is a cycle: a cylce of adoration, adoption, and disapointment/revulsion/dissaffection that media types go through until they have to give up. We watched it with Romney and we will see it on crack with Christie.

Glennis said...

If he doesn't keel over first.

Joey Blau said...

Dang we suck!! Can anyone here play this game?

Kathy said...

It's Dean, not Don, Young in Alabama. I think even the real Don Young would be insulted to be mistaken for such a lowlife. I would have been physically ill had he won.

Steve M. said...

Ouch -- fixed now.

Unknown said...

I think you're mostly right, but I choose to take the optimistic view of Virginia and say that even Terry Fking McAuliffe beat Ken Cuccinelli, who was the absolute darling of the wingers, who was generally conceded the race a year ago and had gotten a few mentions as a 2016 hopeful.

I'll feel a lot better if the Democratic leadership realizes how strongly "women's issues" helped McAuliffe. Unfortunately, I fear they'll fall victim to the mindset Digby does such a great job of pointing out - "Yeah, he won, but only because of that woman stuff, so it doesn't really count."

Examinator said...

The key point is the same the majority of the electorate want their leaders to be 'surrogate or political father' like. Someone "strong" and can make them feel safe/comfortable.
Christie has done that for those in NJ.
The more vulnerable the voter feels the more 'Conservative' the voters will accept.

To topic wander a bit if HILLARY is the 2016 Democrat aspirant she will have to overcome the above EMOTIONAL obstacle.
Sexist ? Hmmm I'm not that sure but it is conservative (conservative as in *perceived *less risky... more like their emotional comfort leader)

As for the less committed Dem they trusted Obama and he's disappointed most, because he was less effective than their (unreasonably) high expectations.

Back on topic (sort of) the non extremist republican has seen the extremes TB chaos and it bothers them, so they are opting for a more comfortable conservative stereotyping.

Unknown said...

Yes!!! Democratic leadership realizes how strongly "women's issues" helped McAuliffe. Unfortunately, I fear they'll fall victim to the mindset Digby does such a great job of pointing out.

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