Trump and Murphy might have more in common than you think
There's an interesting report from our friends at NJ.com about towns in New Jersey where both Donald Trump won in 2016 and Phil Murphy won in 2017. There are 36 of them — more than some people might think.
Looking at this a little closer, a few things come to mind for me. First of all, both candidates represented a change from the status quo. Trump was a wrecking ball to both the Clinton and Bush establishment politicians in the major parties. And Murphy was, for many, the welcome change from eight years of Chris Christie. It seems that the themes of "Making America Great Again" and "I've got your backs" resonated with voters in both elections.
I've said before that I think we are entering a phase of American politics that is truly becoming post-partisan.
Both parties over the past few decades have failed on a number of critical matters at all levels of government including job creation, immigration control public safety and keeping Americans safe abroad. The candidacy of Bernie Sanders seemed to capture some of the desire of voters, especially younger voters, to turn on the status quo and embrace a candidate speaking about change — even one as far left as Bernie Sanders. This was based far more on an emotional anti-Hillary sentiment than average people embracing socialist economic polity.
Politics is truly about people, and their vote will typically reflect how they feel about a candidate's ability to represent them and what does their election mean for the family bottom line. I worked for former White House senior adviser for Presidents Nixon and Reagan, Pat Buchanan, in the 1990s when he was running for president to challenge the elite in the GOP. Pat was ahead of his time talking about a wall and bringing back manufacturing jobs to the US.
Just like the Democrats trounced and eventually co-opted Sen. Sanders, the Republicans crushed our 1996 campaign even after Pat won the New Hampshire primary. Unlike Sanders, Pat never gave into the establishment rhetoric and big government Republican policies. It cost him for sure, but Trump's ascension certainly showed he was on to something.
As a student of history and politics, it's interesting to watch these things play out as we did in 2017 in New Jersey. Murphy is as far-left a candidate that has even been elected to a statewide office in New Jersey as far as I can tell. But far from having a mandate on policy, he's the benefactor of a complete political hatred of Gov. Christie. In hindsight, there was no way that Kim Guadagno was going to prevail, despite her distance from Christie and her sound economic policy plans. Ask the average New Jerseyan if they want to pay higher taxes. Ask the average New Jerseyan if cops are the problem instead of criminals. Ask the average New Jerseyan if we should look the other way when it comes to criminal aliens. They will tell you a resounding "no."
So Murphy benefits from the anger toward Christie, and now he's stuck governing a state with billions in debt and obligations, crumbling infrastructure, one of the worst business climates in the nation and people moving out in record numbers and taking their tax dollars with them.
If the answer is to increase debt, defy federal law and raise taxes, then we may have a winner. If however, there's another path to prosperity, we're gonna have to wait at least four years to uncover it.
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