Chris Christie & Wisconsin's Scott Walker Are Right-Wing Soul Brothers: What It Means for Unions and Progressives
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But what about that great moment after Sandy? Doesn't that mean anything?
No. Not really. Christie said he didn't 'give a damn' whether global warming contributed to the storm. And while climate scientists agree that climate change will produce worse and worse storms, Christie pulled New Jersey out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The RGGI is a compact among the northeast states to limit carbon emissions, and is widely seen as a very smart policy. .
Wisconsin New Jersey?"
By now you're probably wondering whether it's time to grab your picket signs, pack a sleeping bag and get on the next bus to Trenton to start occupying the New Jersey State Capitol. The answer is: it's complicated
Christie is up for re-election this November. It will be tough to defeat him, even as he richly deserves to go down. The media like him, and some Democrats in the State Legislature have on occasion made it too easy for him to look effective and far-sighted. If we tell the truth to ourselves, the truth is – right now, Christie is popular. The latest polling has him ahead of his likely Democratic opponent by 35 points. And he has a huge financial advantage.
Still more alarmingly, Christie has somehow secured support from some segments of organized labor, notably the laborers and plumbers unions. No doubt the leaders of these unions see themselves faced with a difficult choice. With Christie so far ahead in polls, it's tempting to play the percentages and bet on the likely winner in the hopes of securing some small advantage for your members. Pragmatism has its place in politics. We get it.
But in this case, it's deeply troubling.
Sometimes, even when the odds are bad, you have to fight. The alternative is simply making an enemy stronger.
This isn’t the first time labor has made this mistake. There are many famous examples of letting short-term pragmatism blind you to a longer term reality. The Air Traffic Controllers backed Ronald Reagan for President in 1980, and he turned around and crushed them. Richard Nixon was backed by many construction unions in 1968 and 1972, and he then worked to undermine them. And of course in Wisconsin, the police and firefighters unions endorsed Walker in his first campaign, and have to know what a gigantic mistake that was.
Christie's record speaks for itself, and his kind words for Scott Walker should erase any doubt: Christie is no moderate. His worldview should be an anathema to progressives everywhere. He's also dangerous, because he’s popular and is a strong contender for the Republican nomination in 2016. A landslide victory in 2013 will be a launching pad for his 2016 race—“I won a bi-partisan landslide in a blue northeastern state (one that Barack Obama won by 18 points and Bob Menendez won by 20 points), I tamed the unions, and I can make a conservative message work everywhere from New Jersey to New Mexico.” Being able to point to labor support will only bolster his case.
Even if it won't be easy to defeat Christie, we can’t concede his victory without a fight, and we must take him on with everything we've got. By his deeds and his words, he is clearly committed to the death of the labor movement and every other sort of social progress. Christie is strong, but labor and progressives and environmentalists and immigrants and women and anyone else whose heart still beats on the left must stand and fight.