Chris Christie: The Best Choice

On the surface, it’s easy to argue that 2009 was a travesty for the Grand Old Party. There were no historic Congressional victories nor any major Democratic scandals. In fact, by the time Barack Obama delivered his first Inaugural Address, many pundits had declared conservatism dead, surmising that the Republican Party would never again return to power.

All of this and more suggests that 2009 was a dark year for the GOP. That conclusion, however obvious it may seem, does not tell the whole story. On the contrary, 2009 was a very important year for the Republican Party. No, we didn’t take back the House, and no, President Obama didn’t voluntarily step aside and name John McCain his successor. We got something better: Chris Christie.

A breath of fresh air in a world of corruption and petty partisanship, Governor Christie entered the political arena with a bang, handily beating incumbent Governor John Corzine, a Democrat, in New Jersey, one of the nation’s bluest states.

Upon taking office in late January 2010, Governor Christie immediately got to work fixing the state’s miserable financial situation. On February 11th, he issued Executive Order No. 14, declaring a state of “fiscal emergency” and mandating that immediate action be taken to close the estimated $1.3 billion deficit left him by Governor Corzine. Without needing Legislative action, Christie moved to close the gap (as was his constitutional duty) before the beginning of FY 2012.

In June 2011, after more than a year of partisan bickering, the Legislature passed a $30.6 billion FY 2012 budget. Christie signed it into law, but not before using his line-item veto to remove nearly $1 billion of proposed spending.

Although his liberal use of the line-item veto was lambasted by pundits across the state, Christie balanced the budget without drastically increasing taxes (it would be misleading to say that taxes haven’t increased under Christie’s leadership, although tax rates themselves have not gone up), despite large Democratic majorities in both the Senate and House.

Of course, Christie has done more than just fix the state’s budget woes. In June 2011, the same month he signed his controversial FY 2012 budget, Christie worked with Democratic leadership to reform public employee pensions and benefits. According to a report, the deal “raise[ed] public employees’ pension contributions, mandat[ed] that the state make annual payments into the system, increas[ed] public employee contributions toward health insurance premiums, and end[ed] collective bargaining for heath benefits.” The reforms were “projected to save the state $120 billion over 30 years.”

Christie’s work is nothing short of impressive. Born during what some consider the GOP’s darkest days, he worked with Democratic majorities to craft bipartisan legislative measures. Further, he represents the type of leadership this country needs. In working with Democrats across New Jersey, Christie proved that partisanship isn’t “the law of the land.” It’s merely a mindset, one we must cast aside out of necessity, if not common sense.

All in all, it’s Christie’s moderate streak (he’s a strong supporter of gun control, for example) that has me most excited about his potential in 2016. 2009 was, without a doubt, a dark year, but there were bright spots. A Republican seized the governor’s mansion in one of the nation’s bluest states, and in doing so, proved that moderate conservatism wasn’t dead.

The future lies in working together. Chris Christie proved that’s possible. He signed a balanced budget and worked to reform public employee benefits and pensions, all with large Democratic majorities in the state legislature.

As we approach the 2014 mid-terms, and 2016 talk ramps up, don’t forget the dangers of partisanship. The pundits on Fox will convince you that Hillary Clinton hates America and MSNBC will do a segment on Chris Christie’s weight at least once every half-hour. Don’t listen to them.

I hope common sense wins the day. Chris Christie, the only moderate in the Republican presidential field, is our best bet. He’s proven that working together is possible. Heck, the guy publicly praised President Obama! It was bold, it was what we needed, and I like it.