Governor Chris Christie’s endorsement of Donald Trump was appalling to say the least. Chris Christie went from the moderate, supposed “Republican in Name Only,” representing a segment of the Republican Party that was supposed to be pragmatic and tempered in its conservatism to endorsing a presidential campaign that has been endorsed by the former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Christie’s moderate GOP faction was never supposed to be about advocating a specific ideology, especially not an ideology endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan, but instead about advocating whatever best helps the American people, with the ideals of fiscal responsibility and advocating traditional family values as something on the peripherals in relation to the primary objective of pragmatism.
In Christie’s case, this meant being far from a typical Republican. He was a Governor who compromised with Democrats while remaining loyal to his conservative policy positions. For example, Chris Christie refused to sign same-sex marriage into law in New Jersey. Instead he allowed the issue to go to referendum and “let the people of New Jersey” decide. Christie had no doubt that same-sex marriage would pass if sent to referendum, but that was not his issue; Christie’s issue was having his own self, a Catholic, social conservative, and Republican, sign same-sex marriage into law.
Because of proposals like this, Christie was once the guy that moderates on both sides of the aisle could appreciate. He was not some ideologue, but someone practical who could “get things done.” It was for this reason that Chris Christie was able to get 60.4% of the vote when running for Governor in 2013, an amazing feat for a Republican running in a state where 54% of voters have an unfavorable view of the Republican Party.
Chris Christie also signed the Dream Act into law, allowing in-state tuition for New Jersey’s estimated 550,000 undocumented residents. He famously spoke to undocumented children referring to them as “an inspiration for all the future of the country can be,” and calling those who opposed tuition equity for undocumented students “cold-hearted,” and telling the children that they “can make our country a better place.”
In an exclusive interview with Vanderbilt Political Review, Giancarlo Tello, an undocumented student, activist who lobbied Governor Christie in support of the Dream Act, and one of those Christie spoke to the night he signed the Dream Act, expressed great dismay.
“Governor Christie’s opportunism knows no bounds. As a man who openly stated Trump would be terrible for this country, this reeks of desperation to be given another appointment as under Bush. He should focus more on paying back New Jersey taxpayers for funding his waste of a campaign.”
In addition, Christie appointed Sohail Muhammad, a Muslim American judge, to the Passaic County Superior Court. In his confirmation hearing, Muhammad received ridiculous questions unrelated to his job such as being asked to define jihad, and whether he objected to the term,”Islamo terrorism.”
Christie also faced brainless criticism from many on the right, such as assertions that Christie was “in bed with the enemy[referring to Sohail Muhammad],” and was turning New Jersey into a “Sharia state.”
In response to such criticism, Christie engaged in a passionate defense of his Muslim judicial appointee.
“They are criticizing him because he is a Muslim American…Sharia law has nothing to do with this at all — it’s crazy! It’s crazy. The guy’s an American citizen.
This Sharia law business is crap. It’s just crazy, and I’m tired of dealing with the crazies…It’s just unnecessary to be accusing this guy of things just because of his religious background,” Christie fervently remarked.
Another example of “just crazy” is that Governor Christie, formerely a virulent defender of immigrants and Muslims, endorsing Donald Trump, a candidate who has called Hispanic immigrants “criminals, drug dealers, and rapists,” called for a ban on Muslim entry into the United States, and even claimed that Christie’s own Muslim constituents in Passaic County, the same county Christie’s judicial appointee lives in, celebrated the fall of the Twin Towers. What made him want to do this?
The Republican Party used to be a big tent that formed a coalition of people who all had an ideological value system that brought them to the party. There were fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, Libertarians, neoconservatives, paleoconservatives, in addition to other groups representing concretely-defined ideological values. Whether that be a large military, reducing the size of government, reducing spending on social welfare programs, or opposing abortion and same-sex marriage, all of these groups had issues that they legitimately cared about.
Trump’s populist appeal shows that the Republican Party lacks any sort of underlying ideology. Trump, despite referring to II Corinthians as “Two Corinthians,” has been able to attract Evangelical support. Despite critiquing Jeb Bush for the Iraq war and calling himself neutral on Israel-Palestine, Trump has still been able to attract neoconservative support. Despite supporting universal health care, he was able to take voters from Senator Rand Paul, a Libertarian ideologue who would never entertain the idea of government healthcare. In addition, Trump has even drawn supporters from Chris Christie, a moderate Muslim-appointing, Dream Act-signing pragmatist.
Beyond anything, this shows that the Republican Party has a voter base that lacks any sort of central ideology. The fact that Trump has been embraced across the spectrum of idealogies that are supposed to make up the GOP tent shows that neither small government nor social conservatism nor a large military are what drive them. They are simply a frustrated group, looking to exercise their frustration on anything that shakes up the present political system.
But Christie’s endorsement also shows that Republican candidates running for President also lack any sort of underlying ideology. It is for that reason that candidates like Ted Cruz can selectively apply the concept of choice when it applies to charter schools, but be all about government intervention when it applies to a woman’s reproductive rights. It is why Marco Rubio can speak about a small government that stays out of people’s personal business, but still advocate for the Patriot Act and drug testing of welfare recipients.
I used to think that the Republican candidates had just a cognitive dissonance in this ideology of selective small government. But what Christie’s nomination of Trump shows is that Republican candidates do not even have an underlying ideology driving them. And if they do, that ideology is on the back burner. They are merely opportunists who do whatever will keep them relevant.
It is hard to find a Republican candidate these days that is moderate by any means. John Kasich, the acclaimed moderate in the race, opposed rape and incest exemptions in his bills restricting abortion as Governor of Ohio. Lindsey Graham, in his defense of the National Defense and Authorization Act’s indefinite detention clause, once said,”And when they say, ‘I want my lawyer,’ you tell them, ‘Shut up. You don’t get a lawyer.'”
Graham, a man not moderate by any means, described the Republican Party as “batsh*t crazy,” adding “our party is going to have to up its game.”
How shall the party up its game? Perhaps it can began by having some sort of ideologically consistent platform. It makes no sense at all when a formerly Muslim-appointing, undocumented immigrant-friendly, establishment candidate like Christie is endorsing an Islamophobic, Nativist like Trump. What makes even less sense is when Trump, whose policy is authoritarian by a multitude of means, is receiving votes from former supporters of self-professed Libertarians like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul.
The Republican Party really needs to restructure itself ideologically. The statement that “Lindsey Graham gets it itself” reflects the dire ideological state of emergency the GOP is in. Lindsey Graham rarely says things that present a realist, idealogical vision for the future of the Republican Party. This is the same Lindsey Graham who said saying the word, the, in Arabic is a sign of “bad news.” But in this statement, he is spot on in his evaluation of the state of the GOP…”The Republican Party is batsh*t crazy.”