Chris Christie Goes Down For the Count

            Republican Christopher Christie won re-election to a second term as Governor of New Jersey on Tuesday, November 5th, 2013.  Here at the Institute of Election Analysis, we have the annoying habit of waiting until all the votes are counted and the official tally released before deciding what happened.  This year, as in all other years, the results in New Jersey do not get certified until the first Tuesday in December, and were not posted on the website until Wednesday, December 4th.

            According to the Asbury Park Pravda or other local and national media outlets, Christie romped to victory and is now considered a frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.   The voters in New Jersey tell a different story.  Christie received 1,278,932 votes compared to 1,174,445 votes four years ago.  That’s an increase of 104,487 votes, or 8.9%.  The reason the two-party press keeps touting Christie’s landslide is that his Democratic opponent, Barbara Buono, received only 809,978 with another six independent candidates getting another 34,000. 

            So yes, Christie won with 60.2% of the vote, which is pretty impressive until you consider that the turnout was the lowest in the history of New Jersey General elections, 38.5%.  It is not so much that Christie won by a large margin; but rather that he ran the kind of dishonest campaign that kept the voters from knowing anything about his opponent, so people stayed home in droves.  

 Christie was born in 1962.  This was the 13th gubernatorial race in his lifetime.  His re-election victory was the sixth, let me repeat that, the 6th highest vote total, that’s in absolute numbers of votes, of the winning candidates for governor.  He is barely in the top half of winning candidates for governor of New Jersey in absolute numbers.  As a percentage of registered voters, his re-election victory was the second lowest 23.2%.  The only winner who did relatively worse was Christie himself, four years ago, with 22.47%. 

By comparison, just for laughs, the biggest winner in Christie’s lifetime was Governor William Cahill in 1969.  He won with 1,411,905 votes, or 43.58% of the registered voters.  In those days, the voting age was 21 and there were only 3,151,599 registered voters compared to 5,511,048 for the recently completed General Election.  So Christie won re-election with 132,973 less votes (-9.4%) than Republican William Cahill forty-four years ago with  2,271,674 more registered voters (+70.1%).

And in case some find the numbers confusing, even the paid two-party press was forced to admit that in spite of Christie’s alleged landslide, the Republicans gained exactly zero seats in the legislature that was already overwhelmingly Democratic 24 to 16 in the Senate and 48 to 32 in the Assembly, 3:2 in both cases.  But of course, Christie ran on the rubric that he could work with the opposing party, so there was never any reason to give him fellow Republicans in the legislature.

Voter Suppression White Collar Style

So, how did Christie engineer his landslide and manage to keep so many voters turned off and away from the polls?  First, he gathered endorsements from many leading male Democrats.  (Endorse Christie and no one gets indicted.)  This deprived his opponent of valuable financial and political support.  Then, during the summer, when she was still short of funds, Christie mounted an advertising campaign that savaged her record.

Currently there is a probe of lane closures on the George Washington Bridge.  On September 9 - 13, two of three New York bound local access lanes were closed without notifying the public, local officials, or the agency’s executive director as part of a “traffic study.”  The alleged study created huge traffic jams in Fort Lee.  Speculation is that David Wildstein, the director of interstate capital projects for the Port Authority that operates the bridge, ordered the closures to deliberately create the traffic jams because Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich would not endorse Christie.  Wildstein is the former mayor of Livingston, New Jersey who went to high school with Chris Christie.

It always helps to have luck in politics and the death of Senator Frank Lautenberg in June was a gift for Governor Christie.  He could have appointed a replacement to serve until the General election next year, in 2014, giving the Republicans an additional seat in the Senate.  Instead, he appointed his friend, Attorney General Jeffrey Chiasa who immediately announced he would not be a candidate for the seat and engineered the victory of Cory Booker, who Christie did not want for a gubernatorial opponent.  So, why would any Republican want Christie for president?

  Christie then called a Special Election for Wednesday, October 16th, with a primary in August.  Talk about throwing the election calendar into confusion.  So, New Jersey’s voters had to go to the polls four times in five months: regular primary in June, Special Senate election primary in August, Special Senate General Election in October and the general election in November.

The elections were marked by debates that were not broadcast on the major New York and Philadelphia television stations, that were not rebroadcast nor available on-line.  As a condition of accepting public campaign funds, gubernatorial candidates are required to agree to two debates, the sponsors of which are chosen by the Election Law Enforcement Commission.

The last debate in the governor’s race, sponsored by publicly funded Montclair University, took place on October 15th, the night before the Special Senate election, when the federal government was shutdown.  Long story short, on the weekend before the General Election in November, 40% of poll respondents said they did not know enough about the Democratic candidate, Barbara Buono, to have an opinion.

So, Christie did not so much win in a landslide as prevent a large segment of the electorate from knowing anything about his opponent, so they did not bother to vote.  And this vote suppression is nothing new in New Jersey Republican history.  In 1981, in Tom Kean’s squeaker against Jim Florio, the Republicans mounted “ballot security squads” in minority neighborhoods to intimidate voters.  A subsequent Justice Department investigation resulted in a consent decree subjecting the New Jersey Republican Party to the same kind of monitoring as southern states with historical patterns of voter discrimination.  Now, our clever brothers on the Supreme Court are dismantling these protections for minorities because, get this, they are becoming more subtle and widespread so the fact that the remedies are not being equally applied is used as the excuse for getting rid of them entirely. QED.

Illegal conduct by the Lieutenant Governor

Four years ago, Governor Christie chose Monmouth County Sheriff Kim Guadagno as his running mate for Lieutenant Governor. (Christie’s entire administration heavily weighted with law enforcement personnel.)

Two years ago, Olympic Track Gold Medalist Carl Lewis, whose mother lives in Willingboro, ran for the State Senate.  He had voted in California two years previously, and the 1948 New Jersey constitution provides for a four year residency to be eligible to run for State Senate.  There was no dispute that Lewis grew up in New Jersey and had moved to New Jersey and even when he was in California, came frequently to coach students in Willingboro; but the fact that he voted in California was used to disqualify his candidacy.  In spite of a federal court ruling that his name could appear on the ballot, Kim Guadagno removed it; and his Republican opponent got to run unopposed, thereby denying voters a choice.  (Of course, Lewis could have mounted a write-in campaign, but this would have made him an independent but his Democratic (sic) backers would have abandoned him and he declined to follow that route.  Controlling ballot access is the choke point for political corruption and party control.)

Now, in the Special Senate Primary in August, the total number of votes cast in the Republican primary was 130,000.  Election Law in New Jersey stipulates that in order to be awarded a permanent column on the ballot, a party must get 10% of the total vote cast in the previous election for Assembly.  In 2011, this meant that 260,000 primary votes would have been needed for Steve Lonegan, the Republican candidate running against Cory Booker, to be awarded one of the two first columns on the ballot.  Otherwise, Lonegan’s name would have had to be included with the six independent candidates in each of the 21 county lottery drawings for ballot position.

Guess what?  Guadagno simply ignored the law and certified Lonegan’s ballot column.  Christie shot himself in the foot with the Special Senate Election.  It showed that the Republican Party is no longer able to meet the statutory qualifications as a political party in New Jersey.  So, is it any surprise that only 24% of the voters turned out to cast ballots in the Special Senate election and only 38.5% bothered to vote for Governor and the Legislature?

Why Christie Can’t be President

Christie can’t be president for four reasons: first, he can’t control his mouth.  No one can be President who can not control what she or he says; the nation would be at war in one nanosecond after a thoughtless insult to some foreign leader. Second, Christie is an entertainer. A candidate with such a weak vote pulling record can not be elected to national office: low turnout and no coattails.  Third, his record on the most important issue, job creation, is a disaster (which is why he did so poorly at the polls.)  During Christie’s first four year term, New Jersey created less than 150,000 jobs, at a cost of $2.1 billion in tax breaks to big corporations.  That comes to $14,000 per job. And finally, Christie is smart enough to not even want to be president; his real goal is to use his presidential heft to become Attorney General in the next Republican administration, if there ever is one.

The Real Problems

As the New Jersey results and polls show, only about one-third of the voters support the Republicans and Democrats.  So, why do the two parties hold virtually 100% of all elective offices? Because of a vast media/university conspiracy combined with blatant illegality in the conduct of elections.  At every step of the political and electoral process, there are two different sets of rules: one for the two major party candidates, and another for everyone else and even those rules are unevenly enforced to the benefit of the Republicans and Democrats.

There are two other reasons: Americans’ belief in exceptionalism and current national leadership.  Americans believe they are different from other people, just by dint of being American.  Other nations have coups, Americans have assassinations, removals from office for scandal (Watergate), the “electoral college” that allegedly put the loser in the White House (it was really the Supreme Court, Bush and Gore).  The 2000 presidential election was no different from the 2009 Iranian election where the Guardian Council determined the winner.

In response, in 2002, New Jersey put Frank Lautenberg back on the ballot after the deadline had passed and votes had already been cast.  Political hack judge Linda Feinberg just ordered that new ballots be mailed out, and if not returned, the Senate vote in the original absentee ballot would be void.  Where, oh where, in the election law do judges have the power to order some voters to receive two ballots and other voters to have their votes annulled?

But there is a bigger problem, that of personnel.  Most males born or living in the United States between 1890 and 1955 were subject to the military draft.  It was a rite of passage, part of everyone’s life was the need to assess and determine what to do about military service.  This not only focused people’s attention on foreign policy and the common good, but it also required individuals to take time out of their personal lives to deal with this public obligation.  These were the years that the United States became the world’s greatest superpower. 

All the men born or living in the United States since 1955 have been free from this public obligation.  They have been free to pursue their personal agendas without a thought for anyone but themselves.  Naturally, they have been more successful in their careers.  People who had to make detours of several years or even decades before being able to start careers and families are far behind.  This truth was amply elaborated in Malcom Gladwell’s Outliers.  It is no coincidence that both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were born in 1955.

Chris Christie, Paul Ryan, Mark Zuckerberg and Cory Booker are poster boys for that generation of business and political leadership who have never had to think about anyone or anything but themselves and their personal desires.  They think they’re geniuses, when all they are is lucky.  They think they made it on their own and that it’s ok to do whatever it takes to win, take away people’s pensions, limit their salaries, cut their food stamps, depict health care as slavery, even cheat in elections and use clever administrative legerdemain to prevent the most disenfranchised from being able to cast an informed vote.  They forget the generations of men and women who had to leave their homes and families, most never to return in the same shape if at all, to secure the blessings of democracy to themselves and their posterity.

They think a 38.5% or a 24% turnout in a general election is a landslide.  They are fools. The United States can go down the drain just like anyplace else.  Just watch.

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Contact: Joshua Leinsdorf