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Chris Christie & Wisconsin's Scott Walker Are Right-Wing Soul Brothers: What It Means for Unions and Progressives

By Christie's deeds and his words, he is clearly committed to the death of the labor movement and every other sort of social progress.

Two years ago, Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin introduced his falsely-named "budget repair bill."  In doing so, he transformed himself from an obscure Midwestern Governor to the personification of a nationally-orchestrated, well-funded right-wing movement that was more – much more - than just an attempt to balance the budget on the backs of public service workers. His plan, concocted in quite public collaboration with the Koch brothers, was to gut public sector collective bargaining rights altogether.

The right had a new champion. Having weakened and nearly destroyed the private sector union movement in America over the last 30 years, it was time to hone in on a new target: public sector unions and, in fact, the very idea that a fair society requires a robust public sphere. (Hint: this is true for the non-wealthy, less so for people who can buy their way into private schools, private beaches, private jets and so on…).

As everyone knows, the people of Wisconsin fought back. Madison became our Tahrir Square. It was thrilling to watch, and the entire labor and progressive movement understood how important a battle it was. Tactics included civil disobedience on a scale rarely seen in the U.S. and an ambitious electoral recall of a handful of Republican State Senators and Walker himself. Several Senators lost their seats in the recall, but Walker won. Unfortunately, too many union members themselves voted for Walker, despite an enormous groundswell of progressive labor mobilization in the recall.  Walker's re-election campaign in 2014 will be another "all or nothing" moment for labor and progressive forces as we learn whether Walker-Koch conservatism is here to stay.

Before we get to the 2014 re-match, however, there’s another Governor up for re-election in 2013 who is also in the public eye. I'm referring to the East Coast's own version of Scott Walker. No one would confuse Chris Christie's brash {pugilistic?} demeanor for that of a polite Midwesterner. But when it comes to strict adherence to right-wing ideology, Christie is every bit the match for Scott Walker -- and in some cases, even worse. I’m from New Jersey, and it’s astonishing to me that someone this awful is the Governor of my home state. .

Before the dust had settled in Madison, Christie was pushing a similar package of collective bargaining "reforms" in New Jersey. Christie frequently made the comparison himself. During a series of press events in Wisconsin during the recall campaign, Christie rallied support for Walker by comparing and celebrating what he and Walker had done. The New Jersey Star Ledger reported it this way in May 2012:  

The Republican governor [Christie] drew no distinction between the pension and benefit reforms pushed through New Jersey’s Democrat-controlled Legislature and Walker’s near-elimination of collective bargaining rights for public-sector unions — actions that flooded the Madison statehouse with protesters and could make him Wisconsin’s first governor to be dumped during his term.

“You see what I’ve been able to do is give Scott and the people of Wisconsin a little preview of what good conservative governance can do for states,” Christie told several hundred people at a landscaping equipment maintenance shop near Milwaukee.

But Christie isn’t just hostile to working-class organizations. He has an all-encompassing right-wing philosophy that seeps into every aspect of his agenda. No matter the issue – minimum wage, marriage equality, climate change, directing public money to private corporations, lowering taxes on the rich – Chris Christie is a hard-right Republican. He may be a huge fan of Bruce Springsteen, but I can guarantee that Springsteen is not a fan of his.

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