Philosophical commentary on contemporary political issues in the tradition of Charles Taylor, Alasdair MacIntyre, and Michael Sandel.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Why Liberals Would Love to See Christie on the Ballot in 2016 -- And Maybe in the White House too.

In a poll released earlier today, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie ranked as the "hottest" politician in America, beating out #2 in the poll, ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by one "degree." Yes, the terminology is a little silly, but it points to a possible 2016 match-up that bodes nothing but good news for liberals in America.

Firstly, post-Obama administration Hillary Clinton left her post at the State department as one of the most popular politicians in the country. If she ran, she would have a good shot at becoming the first woman president in United States history as well as marking the Democrats' first 3-term streak holding the presidency since Harry Truman occupied the White House.

While Christie is popular amongst independents according to a Public Policy Polling survey, the last candidate to hold such broad appeal across ideologies was John McCain in 2008, and we remember what happened to him. The Republican party has twice chosen centrist candidates over more right-wing opposition in 2008 and 2012, but have nonetheless been unsuccessful at turning that into victories. In 2012, Mitt Romney won the independent vote, but was still unsuccessful at winning the presidency. Assuming he locks up the nomination on grounds of this appeal, Christie would still have to somehow win the independent vote decisively while also turning out a Republican base that he is alienating with his rhetoric against the still-powerful tea party wing of the GOP.

But if Christie were to overcome these odds and pull off the victory against Clinton in the general election, it still would likely spell out long-term benefits for Democrats. A cycle cited by some political scientists is the opposite-party moderate who cements an ideological pendulum swing in American political affairs.

An example of this is FDR to Eisenhower. FDR cemented the modern welfare state and Keynesian, big-government approach that dominated American policy throughout near the end of the Cold War. It was Republican Dwight Eisenhower, however, who took the steps of instituting the national highway system and forced integration of schools that cemented FDR's pro-government, anti-segregation policies as more than just partisan choices. This swung the other way when Reagan was followed up by Clinton, a Democrat who reformed welfare and signed NAFTA, the most extensive free trade treaty in US history. Clinton's actions reinforced neoliberalism as the ideology of contemporary American policy.

The difference between these developments and election 2016 is that a one-term same party president (Truman and Bush I) sat between the great ideology-shifter and the opposite-party reinforcer. But if Christie won the presidency, would he be going for an Obamacare repeal? Would he dial back on his rhetoric and suddenly support the "cut at all costs" approach of the Tea Party? No, Christie would likely be an Eisenhower or a Clinton: a popular individual who sells out his party radicals by pushing the center a little bit in the other direction.

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