A recent CNN poll shows New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (Republican) with a razor-thin lead – 2% and thus within the margin of error – over former First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (Democrat) in a head-to-head matchup in the 2016 presidential race. Right now, it is less important who would emerge victorious than that one of those two types of candidates, “Christie” or “Hillary,” will be the next president.
Their names appear in quotes because more often than not, major party frontrunners – with the exception of incumbents, which is not the case here – are rarely the ones who are nominated and elected two years later. Case in point: two years prior to the 2008 presidential election, the experts were hyping the “Rudy v. Hillary” matchup, between former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R), and Clinton. Hardly anyone could have guessed that the then-72 year-old John McCain would have outlasted a half-dozen younger and more politically vibrant favorites to capture the GOP nomination, and even less likely was that a fellow named Barack Obama, who was virtually unknown outside of Illinois at the time, would have been nominated by the Democrats, let alone would have won the general election.
That is precisely why “Christie” versus “Hillary” ought to remain in quotes, because the near-certainty regarding their respective nominations is not these two politicians specifically, but rather what they represent: the establishment.
Both Christie and Clinton are at the core of their parties’ centers. Anyone but the most myopic liberal or conservative would see either of them as anything but a centrist.
Clinton – should she choose to run and should an intervening factor (scandal, health issue, etc.) not impeded her electability – seems about as much a favorite to win the Democratic nomination, and the presidency, as anyone can be. Unless another “Barack Obama” emerges from the woodwork – unknown to us now but who can captivate the entire world within months: and how often does something like that happen?
On the other hand, Christie’s frontrunner status is much less inevitable. That’s because unlike with the Democrats – whose “party unity” is really lazy complacency, squandering the political gift of a two-term president by maintaining inept Congressional leadership and, sans Hillary, no formidable candidates with national appeal – the Republicans have an array of “rising stars” who make the party base gush like giddy schoolgirls. The latest tea (as in Tea Party movement) flavors of the month are Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, Senators from Kentucky and Texas, respectively. Conspicuously missing from that list is Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who fell out of grace with the “conservatives” (I use that word sarcastically to describe them, because sometimes I wonder if they know the true meaning of the word), because Rubio wanted to…gasp…compromise on immigration. That the Tea Party vultures threw Rubio under the bus for daring to utter an independent thought is no surprise: being their poster child is about as secure a job as Billy Martin’s was managing the Yankees when George Steinbrenner owned the team.
If Paul and/or Cruz fall from grace in the next year or so, someone surely will be there to carry the torch for the Party’s lunatic fringe, which compromises with no one and routinely – and oddly, almost with perverse pleasure – cuts off its nose to spite its political face – which, like elections, it more often than not loses.
These so-called Reagan devotees – who know about as much about Reagan as millions of so-called Christians know about Christ (but, I digress) – who like to play dress-up and show up to protests with muskets and funny hats, really ought to learn more about the Founding Fathers who they strive to emulate. They ought to know that the United States, upon declaring its independence from Great Britain in 1776, endured a fragile government – much like the ones in modern-day Iraq and Afghanistan – for the ensuing 11 years, until the Constitution was written and ratified, and then the nation was saved. And why did the first government – based on the Articles of Confederation – fail? Because the Articles ceded so much power to each individual state, and when the states disagreed, they refused to compromise. Sound familiar?
How does all of this apply to 2016? If Republicans reject Christie for being too “moderate,” and instead elect a “pure” conservative, that pure conservative will lose in a landslide, as pure liberal George McGovern did in 1972, winning one state to Richard Nixon’s 49.
“Aaah, but we tried electing these RINOs (Republicans in Name Only),” the Tea Partyers might say, “John McCain, Mitt Romney, and they lose.” But they lose because of personality, not ideology. But that’s another article for another time.
It all boils down to this, Republicans: either get behind Christie or someone like him, or be prepared to welcome the Clintons back to the White House on January 20, 2017.