Today, Gov. Chris Christie of my Garden State decreed that our Senate seat will be filled by someone popularly nominated by his or her party in two months and sent to Washington two months after that. The catch is that it will all be done before his own election in November, allowing for left-wing liberals such as myself to sit out his presumed re-election. This is being observed by both the New York Times and Politico as being the true motivation: to start his second term easily. They're right: the state will spend $24 million that it needn't spend in order to avoid the wildly popular (and, daresay, presumed Senator-elect) Cory Booker from driving rabid progressives to the polls to also support the underwhelming mouse of Barbara Buono (who?) who is opposing the lion Christie for the governor's mansion.
Let me be clear: Chris Christie has represented a most odious first term, in which he vilified public sector workers, teachers among them, as the single fault for New Jersey's problems. Christie has cut aide to the poor and the hungry while making New Jersey a better place for the rich. That he did his job--completely and properly--after Hurricane Sandy is to be applauded nonetheless. That he's ensuring his future--both the next four years and beyond--with the upcoming Senate election is abundantly clear.
And you know what? I don't have a problem with it.
Not one bit.
Elections matter, dearly. When voting for the next chief executive of your student council, village, city, or nation (or anywhere in between), know that your votes count. Who we elect isn't just to prevent the other guy from winning; it isn't to completely support the pie-in-the-sky, impossible plans of our candidate; it isn't just to keep things as they are. Sure, those are all factors--but sometimes real governance must happen.
Apparently, despite hazy New Jersey election laws, the governor can set the election for a time of his choosing. Period. It needn't be when it's inconvenient for him. It also needn't be this year: he could pick any dyed-in-the-wool Red Republican to fill the senate seat for the next year, giving a leg up to a challenger against Cory Booker. Indeed, in a state that votes comfortably but not impossibly blue, perhaps Booker's rise (one that I think lands him a nomination for president in the 2020s) could be stopped now, today, with Christie naming a Republican senator.
Instead, we're off to the polls in two months--to vote, because democracy matters. Cory Booker will sail into the United States Senate for a year and be given enough light to shine, ensuring six more years after that. Perhaps Senator Booker will steal away the governor's mansion from Republicans in 2017--how "wise" will Christie's move look to Republicans then? Or perhaps Booker will help advance some other 2017 Dem to Trenton--same effect.
The bottom line is that voting counts. Are the August primary and October general elections ill-timed versus the November election?
Did the people of New Jersey choose the man who made that decision?
Can they share their anger one month later by voting against Christie?
It's still yes. And it's equally a no--because it's ultimately about voting and democracy. I won't be voting for you this November, Mr. Christie. But today, my hat's off to you.