From The Star-Ledger:
TRENTON — Even though a famous civil rights leader came to Trenton to scold him, Gov. Chris Christie Monday unapologetically defended last week’s controversial remarks on civil rights, calling one his Jersey critics “numbnuts.”
Agitated and at times caustic, the governor went after Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, who had hammered Christie for saying that in the 1950s and 60s activists “would have been happy to have a referendum on civil rights rather than fighting and dying in the streets of the South.” Christie was trying to compare his call for a referendum on gay marriage to the civil rights struggle.
“What I said was I’m sure that civil rights advocates would have liked to have this as another option but it was not available to them,” Christie said at the Statehouse. “Yet you have numbnuts like Reed Gusciora who put out a statement comparing me to George Wallace and Lester Maddox.”
I think that on major social/cultural/civilizational issues, the best way for the government to get involved — if it has to get involved at all — is by referendum. Gay marriage is ultimately a civil-societal and religious issue and not a political one, and insofar as a state must have a disposition on its legalization or proscription, better the people than the courts or the interest groups. Christie’s own position has consistently been against gay marriage, and the conventional wisdom is that his referendum advocacy is politically shrewd since it a) provides relief to moderate Republicans in the State House who were under great pressure to support legislative legalization and b) brings out social conservatives to vote on a ballot measure in a major election year.
But on the merits, I don’t think Governor Christie’s comparison to the civil rights battles of the 60s is apt. Blacks in the South did indeed face a system of informal and institutionalized violence and intimidation designed precisely to deny them franchise in the broadest sense. Nobody in New Jersey is going to hose down gay marriage proponents or send thugs to polling stations with lead pipes.
I’ll defend the governor on another point. In New Jersey “numbnuts” is roughly equivalent to “knucklehead.” I had a high school gym teacher call me numbnuts so many times I looked into seeing a specialist.