Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Chris Christie's Deflating Keynote Address, and the Silver Lining

I'm sorry to have to say this, but it must be said. If NJ Governor Chris Christie's Keynote Address is indicative of the coming Romney campaign message--let alone the future leadership of the GOP--the Democrats should be breathing a huge sigh of relief.

Christie attacked selfishness and self-interest and lauded sacrifice, the moral prerequisites of big government statism. (To be fair, Christie's concept of selfishness, like that of most people, is muddled: "We know seniors not only want these [entitlement] programs to survive, but they just as badly want them secured for their grandchildren," he said, implying that seniors caring about their grandchildren's future is somehow unselfish. But this very muddle grants the moral high ground to the Left.)

He spoke of principles and convictions, without telling us what they are.

He spoke of the Founding Fathers without mentioning their signal achievement; a country based upon the principle of inalienable individual rights. Instead,  he sounded like Barack Obama when he attacked the idea of "every man for himself."

He spoke of education, his greatest passion. Yet he didn't even mention what he told the American Federation for Children in 2010 would be his top education goal--universal parental school choice. Instead, he lauded his "bipartisan" tenure reform bill, which puts bureaucrats, rather than parents, in charge of evaluating teacher competency.

At a time when America desperately needs a principled political voice for individualism to counter the Left's crusading collectivism, we got "our [educational] system must be reformed to put students first"--so that each student is equipped to make the most of his own life?--no, "so that America can compete."

Christie's speech was very deflating for those of us who understand that "moderate" Republicans have long been the Left's best secret weapon because of their willingness to compromise in a way that advances the Left's agenda.

The sad part is that Christie has the fortitude to push a bold agenda. He's not intimidated by the press or other detractors. Once he identifies a course of action he considers right, he's willing to go to the mat for it. His "combativeness" is well known, and he really means it when he says he's "here to govern, not worry about re-election." Wouldn't it be great if we could harness Christie's passion and energy to the right philosophy, that of egoism and capitalism?

The problem is, despite his talk of principles, ideas, and convictions, he really doesn't have a principled agenda. He spoke of "principled compromise": "We believe it is possible to forge bipartisan compromise and stand up for conservative principles."  Yet he recently made two blatantly statist executive decisions in NJ: He signed a huge expansion of the state's failing solar energy subsidy scheme, and he vetoed a gestational carrier bill. Just what are those "conservative principles?" Your guess is as good as mine.

The fact is, as genuinely sincere as he is, Christie is the quintessential pragmatist. He is about action, not principled action. "We need politicians to care more about doing something and less about being something," he preached. But what we really need is both; someone who'll be an outspoken champion for individual liberty, and whose actions and policies reflect that.

Therein lies our hope. Christie has shown that he can and will "do something." This can-do message alone may resonate with enough American voters to elect Romney/Ryan, if it attaches to their ticket, and end the Obama reign. Wouldn't it be great if he and the rest of the GOP could also "be something"--something like the Founding Fathers? Christie's pragmatism may be our opportunity: Maybe we can help them be just that.

Related Reading:

My Challenge to the GOP; a Philosophical Contract With America

An "Extremist" GOP is Just What We Need


Mike Kevitt said...

I suppose we should give any dim, distant opportunity or hope a chance rather than ignore it, even if it consists of pragmatism.

As for Christie's idea of universal parental choice of schools, doesn't that just mean public schools, including private schools under vouchers?

Mike LaFerrara said...

Christie’s model for school choice is the hybrid Opportunity Scholarship Act, which he called a down payment on his ultimate goal of universal choice. That act features tax credit based private school vouchers. It has big problems, which I critiqued here and here. But the principle of universal school choice is a bold move that will lead the public debate over education in the right direction, if and when he launches the fight by introducing legislation to that effect. It’s for that that I give him credit, which is why I'm disappointed he didn't mention it in his speech.