Monday, February 1, 2016

May Our Memory Preserve Us

As a general rule, I eschew on-line discussions of politics.  It rarely, if ever, is the focal point of something that is written here.  That being said, you are far more likely to find me discussing politics here than in the 21st Century's forum of choice, which is social media.  Facebook, Twitter, and their ilk.  I have a Twitter account and I find Twitter to be very useful for tracking breaking news and other fast-developing events, such as the news regarding the death of Abe Vigoda.  As a forum in which disparate views regarding candidates for political office and the positions those candidates hold on certain issues?  Twitter, in my opinion, is of very little benefit in that realm.  

Social media has become - whether it intended to or not - the line of demarcation between opinion and fact.  By that I mean, it has permitted anyone with an internet-accessible device and means for transmitting words (I have withheld "and thoughts" by deliberate design) onto that device to put forth what is in fact an opinion but to do so in a neatly-wrapped package with the label "FACTS INSIDE"  affixed to it.  Far too often statements offered as facts are merely opinions playing dress up.  They bear as much of a resemblance to an actual fact as the Trojan Horse did to an actual present, which is to say at first glance they seem pretty damn swell but, upon further review, not so much. 

Before heading any further down this particular rabbit hole, a few genuine, real McCoy facts need to be brought to the table by Yours truly.  I am a registered voter.  I am a registered Republican and I have been eligible to vote in Presidential elections since 1988.  In that election, I voted for George H.W. Bush, which I did again in 1992.  When President Clinton ran for re-election in 1996, although I admired (and still admire) Senator Bob Dole of Kansas very much, I voted for President Clinton.  I voted for George W. Bush in 2000 and, again, in 2004.  In 2008, I voted for John McCain.  In 2012, I voted for President Obama.  

As my voting in national races shows (I think it does anyway), I am not a "party-line" Republican.  By that I mean that if you were to take the time to explore my voting history, you would find that I am not a voter who votes by party identification ("This candidate is the Republican candidate, therefore I must vote for this candidate"), even at the local level.  I have lived with my wife in Middlesex Borough, New Jersey for a quarter-century, during which a consistently well-intended but decidedly unspectacular array of individuals has sought elective office.  My general rule, when voting for Mayor and for Borough Council, has been to split my vote in the hopes of ensuring that the Council shall have Democrats and Republicans.  My rationale, whether right or wrong I do not know, is that given the limited competence of those "governing" our little town it is in my best interest as a resident to have members of both parties on the local governing body.  They keep each other in check.  

Our Governor is among the multitude of decidedly unspectacular candidates presently seeking the nomination of the Republican Party to be the GOP's nominee for President of the United States when we the people next vote for that office, which we shall do on the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November.  Once upon a lifetime ago, I was a very big fan, both politically and personally, of our Governor.  He and I are roughly the same age.  He and I are both lawyers.  He and I have both struggled with our weight, especially as we have careened into middle age.  Finally, and certainly not least of all, we are both devout fans of Bruce Springsteen (and if you press your face up against your screen and inhale deeply, then you just might detect a whiff of the fumes on which Yours truly is running this morning after having lucked into a ticket for last night's three-hour-plus Springsteen show in Newark). 

I voted for Chris Christie when he sought the GOP nomination for Governor in 2009.  His primary opponent, Steve Lonegan, is a very conservative Republican whose views, while principled, are too far to the right of my comfort zone to enable me to cast a vote for him.  That fact, coupled with the fact that I viewed Christie as the one who was more likely to be elected in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a sizable margin and as the one who would do a better job at the job once elected, prompted me to not only vote for Christie but to support his campaign financially.  I did likewise when, after capturing the nomination, he ran against and defeated incumbent Jon Corzine in the 2009 gubernatorial election.  

Superstorm Sandy decimated New Jersey in late October, 2012.  Our home in Middlesex was unaffected by the flood waters but was without power from the night that Sandy arrived until Election Day.  Throughout the aftermath of Sandy, I was impressed by the job that Christie did going around the State, listening to the lamentations of residents, and reassuring them that no matter how dark everything appeared to be, it was going to get better and that he was going to do whatever he could to make it so.  His performance was so well-received in New Jersey that his job approval rating skyrocketed to unprecedented heights. 

Rumors abounded in the aftermath of Mitt Romney's unsuccessful attempt to unseat President Obama in 2012 that our Governor was going to be wooed by the GOP to run for the Presidency in 2016.  To my discredit, when he invoked his oft-repeated mantra about only being interested in doing what the people of New Jersey had elected him to do and just how much work remained to be done in his second term, I believed him.  Thus, when he announced his re-election bid, I once again donated to his campaign.  He obliterated State Senator Barbara Buono, the Democrats' sacrificial lamb (she was apparently outside making a phone call when the vote was taken at the State Convention choosing a candidate to oppose Christie), by a margin that was appropriately referred to as a landslide. 

That was November, 2013.  Between Election Night and June 30, 2015, when Governor Christie announced his intention to seek the nomination of the Republican Party to be its 2016 candidate for President of the United States, his second term as Governor bore little resemblance to his first.  How much of that inertia was related to some traffic problems in Fort Lee, how much of it was related to the way in which a second-term (a/k/a "lame duck") Governor is handled by a Legislature controlled by the opposition party, and how much of it was related to the attention he had already focused on his Presidential bid is not for me to say.  Nor is for me to say that there are not other factors that contributed to that inertia.  The fact is that it exists and it has existed since the beginning of his second term. 

A few weeks ago, an article appeared on nj.com that chronicled the fact that in 2015 Governor Christie spent approximately 270 days someplace other than in New Jersey, principally in either New Hampshire or Iowa.  An old friend of mine, in response to my having posted a link to the article on Facebook, asked me whether I thought that a sitting governor should be required to relinquish his or her office upon beginning a campaign for the Presidency.  It is, in my opinion, a simply excellent question.  

I do not know whether a hard-and-fast rule should be adopted that requires an office holder (whether a sitting governor, member of the House of Representatives, or a United States Senator) to resign that person's present office once that person elects to seek the Presidency.  Among the reasons why I do not know that a formal rule should be enacted is that I do not pretend to know how well - or not - John Kasich has fulfilled his duties as Governor of Ohio during his pursuit of the Republican nomination for the Presidency of the United States.  Governor Kasich's campaign commenced approximately one month after Governor Christie's did.  

Intuitively, however, I am of the opinion that enacting such a rule might be a good idea.  Presidential campaign season now begins in earnest almost eighteen months before Election Day.  Senator Ted Cruz started his Presidential campaign on March 23, 2015; Senator Rand Paul began his campaign on April 7, 2015; and Senator Marco Rubio began his on April 13, 2015.  Those three, along with Governor Christie and Governor Kasich are the five candidates still in the race whose full-time job - both on the date the candidacy was announced and presently - is a public office to which they were elected by the voters of their respective states.  Presuming for the purposes of this illustration that Senator Cruz wins the GOP nomination, as of Election Day, he will have spent five hundred and ninety-six (596) days campaigning for the Presidency of the United States - from the 82nd day of 2015 through the 313th day of 2016.  

Given the way in which Presidential campaigns are now structured, it appears to me that it is impossible for a public servant to effectively represent the interests of the people to whom he or she owes the present position while having to devote time and attention to the pursuit of the hoped-for next position, especially for the extended period of time now committed to the Presidential election cycle.  I would submit to you that it is not only a matter of physics (no person can be in two places at one time) but also a matter of metaphysics.  One cannot perform one's present job at an optimal level when one's heart and one's mind are not wholly devoted to it.  It is difficult to be the best anything when your declared dream is be something else altogether different.  

A man much wiser than I am (a long list of candidates to be sure) once observed that whatever is written in your heart is all that matters.  In the context in which he wrote it, I do not think it was intended as a commentary on electoral politics.  Nevertheless...

...an example of the law of unintended consequences? 

Perhaps. 

-AK     

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