Chris Christie is a Perfect Example of What’s Wrong with Politics in the U.S.

Chris Christie is a Perfect Example of What’s Wrong with Politics in the U.S.

Alexis ChapmanTuesday,22 December 2015

Governor Christie has been catching some well-deserved grief lately for proudly declaring during the latest Republican debate that he is a friend to King Hussein of Jordan, who has been dead since 1999. It’s funny because this comment was made while he was criticizing President Obama for not being trustworthy and criticizing his republican rivals for their lack of executive experience. Nothing says trustworthiness and experience like desperately searching for an excuse to name-drop royalty you’ve met and then messing it up. Hahaha, Chris Christie is so stupid! Except that he’s not. While Christie not knowing the name of Jordan’s King is funny, the things he does know about politics in this country are very un-funny. Specifically, he has demonstrated that he knows that in U.S. politics it’s better to act in the interest of people who can help you and not in the interest of the people you’re supposed to be helping (you know, those pesky citizens that politicians are supposed to work for).

A little over a year ago Governor Christie vetoed a New Jersey bill banning gestational crates for pigs. Animal rights groups and pretty much anyone who has seen gestational crates regard them as cruel and inhumane. For some governors this would have been an easy bill to sign; it passed with strong bipartisan support, it had a lot of popular support, and given that industrial pig farming is not big in NJ, it faced almost no opposition. But for Christie this was an easy veto (as it was when he vetoed a similar bill in 2013). Technically Christie was (and is) Governor of New Jersey, but he knows that his real job is to run for President. And if you want to be president you need to win in Iowa, and if you want to win in Iowa where industrial pig farming is big business, you don’t want to piss off pig farmers. To put it another way, Governor Christie acted against the political will of his state (and against general ethics) in order to curry favor with a special interest group in another state and further his own political career. Tell me again, Governor Christie, about how you’re a trustworthy, good executive?

This pig crate bill is old news, but the fact that during the campaign it’s not news at all says a lot about how politics in the U.S. works. Christie’s old bridge scandal will get some renewed coverage if his numbers continue to pick up, Ben Carson saying strange illogical things in the past will get coverage, and Trump saying horrible illogical things in the present will get lots of coverage. But Christie screwing over his own voters in order to gain political support in Iowa is probably not going to get coverage because it’s the norm in our system; money matters, influence matters, the next election matters, but doing your job as an elected representative for your people? For a lot of politicians, not so much.

Fortunately Chris Christie is almost definitely not going to be president — he’s currently polling at under 4%. Unfortunately, in spite of how awful he is, he’s still in the race and his numbers are increasing. Terrifyingly, he is not even the worst candidate running. And sadly, even when he exits the presidential campaign, he’ll still be Governor of New Jersey. If we want better a better system it may help to elect the presidential candidate who has demonstrated a commitment to changing things (even though he also has trouble with the name of the King of Jordan). But ultimately we’re also going to need to elect governors, senators, Congress people, representatives, council members, and other state and local politicians who are going to work for us.

Chris Christie didn’t create this system by himself. We all did by letting our politicians get away with this kind of crap, and rewarding them for it with re-elections. As mere citizens we may not be as friendly with our elected officials as they are with King Hussein, or the current and alive King Abdullah II, or Iowa pig farmers, or lobbyists, or the Koch brothers, but we do still get to vote. If we can start using our vote more actively and more often in local politics, then some day we may not have to worry about a political system (not to mention a presidential election) being dominated by money and controlled by people who haven’t actually been elected to anything at all.

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Image Credit: Gage Skidmore on Flickr

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