Misreading Chris Christie

by Reihan Salam

David Weigel of Slate writes:

It’s strange that our lazy national conversation about politics focuses on “bipartisanship” and “compromise,” because Christie is probably the most successful — and definitely the most famous — Republican governor of a Democratic state, and his success is entirely a function of not compromising. He has more room to dictate than a president does, because there is no filibuster in New Jersey’s state Senate, and the governor of the state has more jurisdiction over the state budget than the president of the United States has over the national budget. But his strategy is simple: Pick, and win, fights with political opponents, by elevating their least popular and most ridiculous leaders and demands. 

But Weigel misunderstands an important part of Christie’s remarks:

What new governors can’t understand, he said, is that “I don’t care if you had a Democrat or a Republican before you,’’ you will still be up against the same “it’s never been done that way’’ mindset. 

That is, Christie’s position can be both uncompromising and bipartisan. Consider the campaign by Democratic mayors in New Jersey cities and towns on behalf of Christie’s “toolkit” for local governments. On Monday, The Jersey Journal offered the following report:

Today, Senator Brian P. Stack urged statewide support of Gov. Christie’s “toolkit.” 

Christie has recommended reform in the areas of civil service, collective bargaining, employee pensions and benefits, red tape and unfunded mandates, election reform and shared services. 

Sen. Stack said, “I urge both my colleagues in the Legislature as well as fellow mayors to show their support for the Governor’s toolkit, which is designed to allow New Jersey’s municipalities to operate with better fiscal efficiency. 

Gov. Christie has certainly been sharply critical of some constituencies, but he’s made an effort to build alliance with Democratic officials and with members of private sector unions who are concerned about the sustainability of demands being made by public sector unions. 

The Agenda

NRO’s domestic-policy blog, by Reihan Salam.