Leave it to my home state to create a political scandal more entertaining than “The Good Wife.”
Being born and bred in New Jersey, I did not think anything could surprise me about politics in the Garden State. My great uncle was a state senator in Jersey City in the 1930s, a time of backrooms full of cigar smoke, when money was passed under the table to form political alliances. I inherited his “Tycoon” pocketwatch. If only watches could talk.
The debacle surrounding Gov. Chris Christie does surprise me. Christie grew up in the rough and tumble world made famous by “Boardwalk Empire” and “The Sopranos.” Not as mobbed-up as in the past, but still tough as nails. Opponents do not end up in dumpsters anymore. But those cast aside at the ballot box have all the political gravy taken away from them. Former allies become enemies quicker than in the Roman Forum. Christie not only knows the rules of New Jersey politics, but he has also used them to his advantage better than anyone else in recent memory.
The baffling thing about the Christie crisis, where his staff is alleged to have caused traffic havoc on the George Washington Bridge for four days, is that the payback was focused on voters and not politicians. Christie is too politically astute to sanction such an action on the front end of a presidential run. This was likely a bad idea from his subordinates, made worse in the execution.
There is no question that if Christie has understated his involvement in the decision to cause the massive traffic jam, he is toast on the national stage. Even if he is able to maneuver out of this mess and resume his quest for the Republican presidential nomination, the issue of his vendetta-driven style of politics will continue to haunt him.
Iowa conservatives will find it difficult to relate to a New Jersey politician who governs through power calculations and not ideology. After all, most of their forefathers from the Corn Belt supported Prohibition and did not try to turn it to their own political advantage. They would not have lasted a week in Jersey City in the 1930s. Nor will they approve of New Jersey politics as it exists today.