Friday, February 1, 2013

What Hillary Clinton could have learned from Chris Christie

OK, I know that title sounds a bit crazy. But hear me out.

Take a trip down memory lane to 2003 when Hillary was then-Senator Clinton. The country was pissed and scared after 9/11 and Bush/Cheney manipulated all of that into a needless invasion of Iraq. Senator Clinton chose to ride the emotional wave and voted for the war - probably thinking that she needed to be aligned with public opinion in order to have a shot at the Presidency in 2008.

That decision didn't work out so well for her. By the time 2008 rolled around, public opinion had changed (no WMD's...duh) and she found herself in a hard-fought primary against a guy who had opposed the war from the start. Senator Clinton had some 'splainin to do.

If Gov. Christie has his eye on a nomination in 2016 (we don't know for sure), his problem is the emotional roller coaster going on now in the Republican Party. The base - which appears to have a lot of power right now - is pissed and scared. Other potential nominees (ie, Senator Rubio) are playing to those emotions...big time. Their calculation is that they'll need to tap into that emotional energy in order to get the nomination.

I would suggest that Christie is engaging in the long game. He's betting on the idea that things will change over the next 3 years and that playing to that base so hard will come back to bite people like Rubio. So while his policies - like recently vetoing a minimum wage increase - are still firmly in the conservative camp, he is currently seen by most of the country as one of the few "reasonable" Republicans.

Three years until the primaries start is an eternity in politics. So I'm going to totally avoid making any predictions. But I'd suggest that Gov. Christie is playing this one pretty smart.  

3 comments:

  1. I don't know -- I haven't observed Chris Christie carefully enough to be able to intelligently speculate on his long game. But I do kind of think his open appreciation of President Obama during his state's crisis was an easy call for him. I don't think he's feeling any real discomfort right now (regardless of the abuse he's gotten from fellow GOPers) because he understands the voters in his state, and they're still his main focus for now. And really, the general American public loves seeing political rivals "come together" in times of crisis -- it makes us feel more secure -- so he might've felt pretty safe in guessing he would be aligning with public opinion, just as Hillary Clinton did when she staked out her position in 2003.

    Crap. What I'm trying to say is that Chris Christie, as a Republican governor in a northeastern "blue" state, may be more tempered than his southerly/westerly bat-shit brethren because he has to be in order to keep his current job, and that may have driven his post-Sandy behavior as much as any shrewdly thought-through long game. And he still has to get through a Republican primary. I just don't see how the party is going to fix that problem in time for 2016. The base seems irredeemably socially aberrant, thanks to their continuous consumption of paranoid right-wing disinformation. How would Fox and radio talkers "un-do" their audience's paranoia enough to tolerate a Chris Christie or Jeb Bush candidacy in 2016? I dunno. To me, the Republican base has become an insurmountable obstacle. The base, by design, can only get worse, right? What am I missing? How does the GOP avoid getting screwed by its own base?

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    1. Here's the thing...I was hearing positive things about Christie from some Democrats in NJ BEFORE the whole Sandy thing. Regardless of how conservative his actual policies are, he seems to be able to transcend the divide. So I'm not talking specifically about his embrace of Obama post Sandy. I'd suggest that he plays the "maverick" role that McCain dreamed about but never really pulled off in 2008.

      As to how things will change by 2016 - lets just watch it play out. I don't have any specific predictions. But I'll bet money that the landscape has changed for the Republicans by the time we get there. The tension they're experiencing now will shift things. How...I don't know. But it will.

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  2. "...But I'll bet money that the landscape has changed for the Republicans by the time we get there."

    Oh, your words fill me with dread! It'll be fascinating to watch, yes...but so, so nerve-wracking.

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