Christie’s Grand Ol’ Party Is Just That: Old

The presidential hopeful’s policies harken back to the good ol’ days of Bush-era conservatism.

David Sirota

Christie celebrating new gubernatorial term. (Kena Betancur / Getty)

From the moment he was declared the winner in his re-election campaign, Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) has been billed as a new kind of Republican. Is it a fair characterization? Yes and no.

As he prepares to run for president, Christie is betting that his dangerously outdated policy agenda will be obscured by his seemingly novel style.

Yes, this likely presidential candidate has done a few things other GOP politicians don’t usually do. Yes, he has won re-election in a traditionally Democratic state. And yes, for a few weeks he was actually cordial to President Obama. Even considering the context – he only won against an underfunded opponent and he was only nice to the president when asking for hurricane relief funds – these are, indeed, rare accomplishments for a Republican.

That said, these atypical parts of Christie’s record have little to do with the concrete policies that he has touted and that he would probably champion if he were elected president. On that score, Christie isn’t new at all. He is the opposite – a Bush/Cheney-esque neoconservative promoting the old politics of division and ignorance.

Take, for instance, Christie’s declarations about civil liberties. 

A few months ago, Christie alluded to 9/11 when calling criticism of the National Security Administration dangerous.” Then, in truly Cheney-esque fashion, he warned that the next attack that comes, that kills thousands of Americans as a result, people are going to be looking back.” Christie’s insinuation, of course, was that if America is hit again, it will rightly blame those who dared to question the NSA’s mass surveillance programs. 

Yet, in his eagerness to instill fear, Christie failed to address the serious constitutional concerns about the NSA programs. Worse, he didn’t mention that, as ProPublica recently reported, there is no evidence” that such surveillance has stopped terrorist attacks or is making the country safer.

It is a similar situation when it comes to budget issues. Christie has pushed a Bush-like agenda of tax breaks for the wealthy and cuts to social services, education and retirement benefits. He has portrayed this agenda as proof that he is fearlessly advocating for the taxpayer.” Yet, as The New York Times recently reported, Christie has also channeled Bush by cheerily handing out hundreds of millions of dollars worth of wasteful taxpayer subsidies to huge corporations. 

Then there is the fight against climate change. It should be a cause Christie passionately endorses, considering the ample evidence that climate change is intensifying storms, like the 2012 hurricane that pummeled his state. Instead, like a standard-issue Republican politician, he is in the climate-change denial camp.

As the Newark Star-Ledger notes, Christie has been a catastrophe on the environment, draining $1 billion from clean energy funds and calling a cease-fire in the state’s fight against climate change.” More specifically, Mother Jones magazine reports that Christie got rid of the Office of Climate Change and Energy within the Department of Environmental Protection shortly after taking office, withdrew the state from the Northeast’s cap and trade plan known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (and) weakened the state’s renewable energy standard.” Meanwhile, when a local radio correspondent asked him about the scientific connection between climate change and superstorms, Christie angrily brushed off the query by declaring that liberal public radio always has an agenda.”

As he prepares to run for president, Christie is betting that his dangerously outdated policy agenda will be obscured by his seemingly novel style. He is betting, in other words, that the media will ignore his record, fetishize his bluster and thus shower him with all the cliches (“tough,” determined,” straight talking,” etc.) that tend to dominate presidential campaign coverage. 

It is certainly a cynical bet. But it is not a stupid one in an era that so often replaces inquiry with hagiography and makes the old seem new again.

Help In These Times Celebrate & Have Your Gift Matched!

In These Times is proud to share that we were recently awarded the 16th Annual Izzy Award from the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College. The Izzy Award goes to an independent outlet, journalist or producer for contributions to culture, politics or journalism created outside traditional corporate structures.

Fellow 2024 Izzy awardees include Trina Reynolds-Tyler and Sarah Conway for their joint investigative series “Missing In Chicago," and journalists Mohammed El-Kurd and Lynzy Billing. The Izzy judges also gave special recognition to Democracy Now! for coverage that documented the destruction wreaked in Gaza and raised Palestinian voices to public awareness.

In These Times is proud to stand alongside our fellow awardees in accepting the 2024 Izzy Award. To help us continue producing award-winning journalism a generous donor has pledged to match any donation, dollar-for-dollar, up to $20,000.

Will you help In These Times celebrate and have your gift matched today? Make a tax-deductible contribution to support independent media.

David Sirota is an awardwinning investigative journalist and an In These Times senior editor. He served as speech writer for Bernie Sanders’ 2020 campaign. Follow him on Twitter @davidsirota.
Democratic Rep. Summer Lee, who at the time was a candidate for the state House, at a demonstration in Pittsburgh for Antwon Rose, who was killed by police, in 2018. Lee recently defeated her 2024 primary challenger.
Get 10 issues for $19.95

Subscribe to the print magazine.