Monday, January 20, 2014

Christie and conservative Schadenfreude

There's a certain amount of Schadenfreude (if you're going to use a German word, I say keep the capitalization) in conservative Republican circles these days about the troubles of Chris Christie, regarding Bridgegate and, now, Sandy relief. Some conservatives have responded by taking the bridge scandal seriously, as Nicole Gelinas does in this cogent National Review piece, but much conservative reaction has consisted of satisfaction that a contender favored by the RINO moderates that supposedly constitute the GOP's "Establishment" is now getting his comeuppance at the hands of the mainstream media that he naively sought to befriend. Thus, for instance, Jonah Goldberg:
And John Nolte:
Me: The lessons these right-wingers are touting seem to boil down to (a) the Christie scandals are not inherently that big a deal but (b) even minor scandals or misleading allegations against GOP politicians will be hyped by the media, even while they ignore or downplay Democratic ones, so (c) the moderate schtick of appealing to the media while bickering with conservatives is a political loser.

Now, I'm a New Jersey GOP moderate who's voted for Christie twice for governor (but who even before the recent scandals and claims did not particularly favor him over other possible 2016 national standard-bearers, including Condoleezza Rice, Mitch Daniels, Rob Portman and the dreaded Jon Huntsman). I agree with Gelinas that Bridgegate is serious (I'll wait and see on Sandy relief and whatever else may be breaking), so I'm skeptical from the get-go about underlying point (a) in the RINO-baiting above ("it's just a traffic jam, not Benghazi," or words to that effect).

I think a lesson conservatives and centrists should be embracing is that big government is a source of the current scandal or possible scandals--for instance, that the bloated Port Authority of NY/NJ lends itself to political pressure and shenanigans. Reforming that rotten institution, and privatizing its functions to the degree possible, is an approach we should be hearing a lot about in the wake of Bridgegate--but sadly few seem to care.

The takeaway from Goldberg and Nolte--stay hostile to the MSM, never reach out to the center--is something the Republican base wants to hear. It's a formula for privileging loyalty to a political faction over the merits and facts of an issue (any issue); and also for losing more national elections. Too bad that Christie, at least through poor selection and oversight of his staff if not direct malfeasance, has enabled conservatives to indulge in some Schadenfreude behind the walls of their bubble.

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