Analysis of media issues, politics and current events.
Republican Chris Christie has a 74% approval rating in the state of New Jersey where he’s governor. 95% of the state thinks he should be re-elected. At 36% national approval, Christie has far higher favorability ratings than most of his GOP brethren. He’s able to gain the respect of Democrats-despite his sometimes abrasive and demeaning style. He’s been lauded for how he handled Hurricane Sandy and his name is passed around as a formidable contender to run for President in 2016.
So much potential. So much public interest. But yet Chris Christie finds himself so alone and ignored in a room full of conservatives. Even pushed away by fellow GOP members.
Despite his national popularity, conservative Chris Christie was declined from formally speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). The “Comic Con” of conservatism. One of the topics I’m sure they’ll talk about at CPAC is how to bring Republicans and conservatives back into popularity and power. Seems a perfect forum for the snubbed-but-popular Christie.
Instead, do you know who been invited to give a speech?
Sarah Palin will speak. The failed presidential campaigner Mitt Romney will speak. Former Representative Allen West will speak as well as a string of political also-rans who are now more known for saying crazy things than demonstrable, measurable results or big ideas. Over that weekend, CPAC attendees will listen to these people and their ilk giving advice on how to create a Republican Party that will win over voters.
That’s a bit like Wang, Commodore 64 and a guy that played Nintendo once having a conference about how to make a computer people want to use while purposely leaving out a Dell or Apple computer.
Christie may not be the savor of the Republican Party. But by all metrics, he’s a conservative that must be doing something right. Or at least worth listening to enough to steal the trade secrets that is making him more successful than most other conservatives. So what’s the problem that keeping him from being invited?
To many in the GOP, Chris Christie is a heretic. He said a few nice things about President Obama. He took Federal funds for disaster relief. Apparently two things that have never happened before. A politician saying kinds words and asking for federal assistance for a crisis. Of course not. It’s just that for some time among Republicans, ideological purity and flawless alignment to doctrine is now considered a more important value to consider than demonstrable success, reality or math. A phenomenon that’s increasing the more the party feels under siege.
Most of the speakers scheduled have proven their ideological purity. That’s why the Palins, Romneys are welcomed into CPAC with open arms while telling Chris Christie to talk to the hand. Even when that hand could save your party rather by introducing new ideas rather than simply regurgitating approved doctrine back to the faithful.
But this problem is not limited to narrowing CPAC participants; it’s also the larger GOP. The Republican Party has come to behave like an orthodox or cult religion where nothing less than conformity to doctrine is heresy and warrants disassociation from the group. It’s keeping Chris Christie at arm’s length. And Colin Powell for saying the GOP might have an issue with race. And now, “trans-vaginal, ultrasound” Governor Bob McDonnell for agreeing to raise taxes specifically to fix very decrepit bridges. Or social conservatives who veer slightly to support a path to citizenship. Or Republicans who feel the Simpson Bowles approach of raising taxes and cutting spending is wise. And don’t’ forget the older conservatives who agree on 100% of doctrine but won’t fit your coalition because they are dying off.
Narrowing the public to distill to true believers will get you an elite, homogenous group at the end. Not a winning coalition.