A link between New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's senior staff and the decision to screw up traffic in Fort Lee doesn't just prove to his conservative opponents that he'd be a bad president. It proves that any step away from hard-right politics is a massive mistake that leads to disaster. Be warned, ambitious Republicans!
This is the argument in a nutshell, made on Wednesday by Breitbart's Matt Boyle: "The Christie episode today shows that non-conservative Republicans, like Democrats, are prone to improper use of the power of government." Conservatives oppose government, Christie doesn't, therefore this alleged abuse shows that conservatives were right all along. It's an impressive logical chain to squeeze into 140 characters.
There are a number of prominent conservatives that are cheering Christie's troubles. Breitbart's Ben Shapiro echoed his colleague: "In any sane world, this Christie bridge story would invalidate him as a 2016 Republican nominee." Red State's Erick Erickson made the inevitable comparison to President Obama's heavy-handed politics: "Obama set the tone for his staff and IRS. Christie did the same in New Jersey." Twitchy dutifully compiled Twitter outrage. Conservative radio host Steve Deace suggested it was a "rare time conservatives cheer on MSNBC and other liberal media outlets as they down a (alleged) Republican."Alleged!
Conservatives oppose Christie because they want a staunch conservative, a real Republican, to win in 2016. And that, in their estimation, is not Chris Christie. He is a big government, Obama-hugging moderate — an argument that Christie's done plenty to reinforce, but which objective evidence suggests may be oversold. Ask the New Jersey teacher's union, toward which he's been positively Scott Walker-esque.
When Christie won reelection last November — somehow even without the endorsement of the mayor of Fort Lee — he flaunted his independence from the far-right of his party. It was a moment in which that flank was still bruised from its advocacy of the disastrous government shutdown and largely before it rebounded with the struggles of Healthcare.gov. Looking into the camera, Christie demanded in his victory speech that night that "the folks in Washington should tune in to their TV sets, and see how" working across the aisle is done. Centrists and moderates were thrilled: validation!
Conservatives were not happy. Later that month at the conservative site Townhall.com, Wayne Allyn Root responded, indirectly.
[M]oderation, cooperation, and “compromise” doesn’t just lead to GOP mediocrity and defeat. It also leads to ruination for the United States of America. The proof is in the pudding. We’ve had decades of cooperation and compromise on Capitol Hill. The result? $17 trillion in debt, and when you add in unfunded liabilities, well over $115 trillion in debt. All that cooperation and “business as usual” has produced a bankrupt nation, the death of full-time good paying jobs, and the extinction of the middle class.
And in the comments? A delineation of Chris Christie's moderate past.
Moderation leads to big government leads to disaster. In New Jersey, moderation leads to abuse of government authority leads to disaster. The mailers destined for homes in the Des Moines exurbs practically write themselves.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.