New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s reelection last Tuesday was an example of politics as politics is meant to be. Christie carried 60 percent of New Jersey’s votes, and this win, along with his high approval ratings, can largely be attributed to the fact that he has attempted to campaign beyond a Republican base to communities of Democrats, minorities and women.
Christie demonstrated his willingness to work with officials with different political views to solve the problems that affect his state — even just a week before the 2012 election — when he worked alongside President Obama in Hurricane Sandy relief efforts in New Jersey. Despite being ideologically conservative and having enacted conservative measures in his state, Christie’s politics didn’t interfere with the responsibilities of his work. Being Republican has not meant turning away from Democrats but has only served as a label for his personal political views.
Christie’s reelection needs to serve as a message to the Republican Party, and to all politicians. The American populace wants their representatives to get things done.
Christie is in no way a paragon, but rather an example of politicians increasing their appeal through accomplishments rather than partisan bickering. Unfortunately, though, he is an outlier, and nationwide, politicians have refused to represent the interests of the people.
Earlier in June, an immigration reform bill introduced by a bipartisan group of Senators was passed in the Senate with both Democratic and Republican support. Although a CNN/ORC poll in June showed that the majority of Americans support the bill, the majority Republican House has refused to take up the bill or even conference with Senators over it, and despite expressing interest in addressing immigration reform through a series of separate bills, the lower chamber has failed to produce anything so far.
With the widely publicized 16-day partial government shutdown in October that left government agencies unfunded and brought us to the brink of defaulting on our debt, the nation again witnessed politicians too focused on partisan politics to compromise and effectively run the government they were entrusted with. But this tide of ineffectiveness, which has amplified over the years, has yet to recede.
On Thursday, Senate Democrats passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), meant to end the discrimination of workers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, with the support of 10 Republicans, yet House leadership has shown no signs of even considering the bill.
With ENDA, not only are we seeing the inability of our government to act because of partisan opposition, but also an inherent problem in the Republican Party to accept a changing world. Conservative ideology has been a viable form of running government throughout American history, but the extreme right-wing faction of today’s Republican Party is making it impossible for more moderate Republicans to advocate conservative policies. This is because of the party leadership’s opposition to basic rights and equal opportunity.
A testament to the declining support of Republicans among non-white-male groups, Republicans have received a minority of the votes of women and all minority groups in the last four presidential elections, and with Congressional elections a year away, the House’s voting record characterizes the lack of priority placed on reaching out to these demographics.
The Republican Party needs to understand that there’s a difference between having a different outlook on how to run government and alienating huge demographics of voters like women and minorities by disregarding them altogether. Furthermore, all politicians need to understand that playing belligerent party politics isn’t doing them any good and is a completely irresponsible way to handle government.
It’s something the bipartisan group of Senators who introduced immigration reform understood. It’s something Gov. Christie understands. It’s something all of our elected officials need to understand.
Until that goal is realized, it is our responsibility as the electorate to express our democratic power and advocate for a more effective government, whether that’s over the phone with representatives or at the polls. Although politics has become a game in Washington, it has always been a two-way process between constituent and representative. This week, voters in New Jersey sent a strong message about the kind of elected officials they want.