Chris Christie is the Real Face of the Republican Party

Richard Eskow

Some Republicans are claiming Chris Christie isn’t really one of them. Some pundits are claiming, even as scandal erupts around him, that he’s a “different kind of Republican.” He’s more, and less, than that: He is the archetypal Republican, the incarnation of its arrogant, corporatist soul.

It’s like we said a while back: Christie is “the heartless, smug, bullying embodiment” of his party. He and his staff reflect a world in which other people are nothing more than rubes to be manipulated and exploited, whether they’re trying to escape the trap of long-term unemployment or Fort Lee during the morning rush hour.

The conventional wisdom says that Christie’s not like other Republicans. Pundits say he’s a “moderate,” a “pragmatist,” a counterbalance to the far-right ideology of the Tea Party Republicans. But no leading Republican is really moderate, including Christie. And at the end of the day they’re all pragmatists, ready to do whatever it takes to serve their paymasters’ agenda.

Democrats and liberals routinely express frustration and bafflement at Republican hypocrisy. “They claim to hate big government,” they’ll say, “but they want to expand the Defense Department. They say they want government out of our lives, then vote to control women’s sex lives or manage a brain-dead woman’s care from the nation’s capital.”

Well, yeah.

It’s true that Republicans are hypocritical in word and deed. But while they may be false to an ideology, they’re always true to their mission: to promote and serve the interests of big corporations and ultra-wealthy individuals. And when it comes to that agenda, all of them – the Chris Christies as well as the Paul Ryans – are as extremist as the political climate will permit. Whether the subject is taxation, “corporate personhood,” or the future of the planet, there’s no room for either moderation or ideology in the service of corporate goals.

That’s why the party’s few real ideologues – the Ron Pauls and Rand Pauls – frustrate the leadership so much. Unfortunately, when Republicans aren’t hirelings they’re usually extremists. And when party leaders complain that other Republicans aren’t “moderates” or “pragmatists,” what they’re really saying is that they won’t behave like Rep. Spencer Bachus (who famously said that the institutions of government exist “to serve the banks“), or, like the ever-”pragmatic” Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, work with corporate-friendly Democrats to fund Defense Department boondoggles.

Why does Christie sound so much more moderate than Mitch McConnell? Because he holds his elective office in New Jersey, and McConnell holds his in Kentucky. You need the right salesman to make the sale. That’s Job One. Once you’ve closed the deal, your objective is to shaft your customers as much as you can without losing the business altogether. That’s the Republican Party’s business model in a nutshell.

“Different”? Christie embodies his party perfectly. Arrogant? Check. Bullying? Check. Indifferent to the well-being of constituents? Check. He may sound like a different kind of Republican, but he governs the same way the others do.

Tax giveaways for big corporations? Christie doled out $1.57 billion for “job creation,” with far fewer jobs created than across the river in New York State.

Following the ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) agenda funded by the Koch Brothers and other big corporate interests? As the New Jersey Star-Ledger reported in 2012, “At least three bills, one executive order and one agency rule accomplish the same goals set out by ALEC using the same specific policies. In eight passages contained in those documents, New Jersey initiatives and ALEC proposals line up almost word for word.”

Meet the new GOP, same as the old GOP.

And say what you will about him, but Chris Christie is a hell of a salesman. He’s managed to make this radical corporatist agenda look “moderate.”

We’re probably obliged to point out that there’s no evidence Christie was personally involved in this political retribution scandal. (Those of us who remember Watergate may experience some déjà vu at this point.) What we do know is that Christie picked the people who wrote those emails, and the attitudes revealed in them reflect precisely what we’ve seen in Christie’s own personality.

Listening to his press conference, it was easy to imagine Christie’s face morphing from one famous Republican to another, the way those young people’s faces did on Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” video. The passive voice (“you are human and mistakes are made”) and “I am not a …” construction (“I am not a bully”)? Pure Nixon. The grandiosity, paired with a refusal to accept responsibility? Pure Cheney.

Then there was the narcissistic focus on how the scandal affected him – rather than, say, the elderly woman who died or the children who were trapped for hours in school buses. That’s pretty much any leading Republican of the last 50 years.

As is so often the case in the corporate world, the GOP’s culture is shockingly insensitive to the human consequences of its actions. George W. Bush “joked” about not finding weapons of mass destruction after hundreds of thousands of people died under false pretenses in Iraq. Christie joked that he was no longer in the “traffic study” business.

Theirs is a culture where people, even children, are either allies or enemies. Hence the Christie staffer’s suggestion that there was no need to feel badly about the kids on those buses because they were “the children of Buono voters,” referring to state Sen. Barbara Buono, Christie’s gubernatorial opponent last year. The sins of the fathers …

The truth is, there’s no such thing as a “new Republican.” There are only new marketing schemes. Today’s Republican Party doesn’t reflect a viewpoint. It reflects a strategy – one intended to maximize the wealth of those it serves. The pundits cheering Christie’s press conference performance, like Politico’s Mark Halperin and right-winger Erick Erickson, would’ve applauded Nixon’s “third-rate burglary” defense.

The Republican Party has finally achieved spiritual death – and Chris Christie is its face. Gaze upon it as you would the face of Ozymandias. Then look on its works, and despair.

Comments