Maximum underdrive: Chris Christie enters the Dead Zone
Sixteen months ago on this blog, I wrote about the phenomenon of the Greg Stillson Moment – that moment in a politician’s career when, like Greg Stillson at the climax of Stephen King’s The Dead Zone, he reveals his awful self to the public so blatantly that it’s all over for him.
Chris Christie has now had his Greg Stillson Moment. And it couldn’t have happened to a nicer hoodlum.
This week’s document dump revealed what a lot of us had already suspected: that some of Christie’s top people had intentionally caused four days’ worth of dangerous traffic gridlock in New Jersey, just to punish a mayor who had failed to give Christie an endorsement the governor hadn’t needed in the first place. And this morning’s farce of a press conference proved that, at the very least, Christie is actively disinterested in investigating what really happened and why.
As pundits like Lawrence O’Donnell have pointed out, this was just about the stupidest sort of payback imaginable. There are a million ways to punish a mayor who refuses to play ball, most of them back-channel maneuvers that won’t grab the attention of the voters. But even the lowest-level officeholder knows that messing with Americans’ automotive independence is the quickest way to write your political obituary. Jesus, entire presidential elections have been decided by relatively minor fluctuations in the price of gas. Imagine the fallout from an enforced lane closure that leaves school buses on perpetual idle and prevents EMTs from reaching a dying senior citizen.
It’s looking ever likelier that Christie himself condoned the shutdown, if he didn’t order it outright. At this point, it’s just about the only explanation that makes much sense. And that dawning realization is confirming a lot of people’s worst fears about Christie, while forcing others to confront misgivings they had willfully submerged. For the first time, Christie’s notoriously thuggish behavior affects them. In reality, his entire tenure as governor has been one long Greg Stillson Moment – it’s just that some people are only now noticing.
A week ago, Talking Points Memo posted a missive from a New Jersey reader named “JL” who attempted to explain the turnaround in his opinion of Christie:
People who like Christie (and I count myself among them most days of the week) don’t like him in spite of the fact that he’s a bully. They like him because he’s our bully. Whether it’s unions, bureaucrats or the intolerance of the GOP he seems to be fighting for you and me.
The problem is that he didn’t give a shit about stealing hours from thousands of commuters lives. … (H)e doesn’t actually give a shit about you and me at all.
The key here is that even JL, a follower of a purportedly liberal-progressive website, hadn’t considered that “unions” – like the teachers’ organizations Christie has demonized to such great success – could be part of “you and me” as well.
This is admittedly a personal issue for me. My father was a teacher in the New Jersey public-school system for decades. He received numerous accolades for excellence – some of them official, many other informal but just as sweet. To this day, I receive regular emails and PMs from former students of his, asking to be remembered to him and crediting him with putting them on a path to personal fulfillment and economic prosperity – prosperity that’s far greater than anything he himself ever enjoyed.
I can’t tell you how proud I am every time I receive one of those messages. And I can’t convey how my heart sinks when I look in my update feed and see some of those same people praising Chris Christie for taking down the “greedy” teachers’ unions.
Some context, in case any of them happen to be reading this: My father is now 85 years old. After all his years of dedicated service to the teaching profession, he and my mother cannot afford to own their own house. Instead, they rent a place from my wife. We’re relieved that they don’t have to live out their sunset years at the mercy of some unconcerned, unpredictable landlord, and that they can instead count on family to look out for them.
Had my father not been represented by two unions – not one, but two – I doubt that he and my mother could even afford to rent property by now. They might be sleeping in our guest room and bitterly second-guessing his lifetime of devotion to the cause of education.
I know that the Christie supporters among my Dad’s former students feel they’re being genuine when they send him their best. But they should know that what they’re really saying instead boils down to this:
Please thank your father for being so useful in getting me to where I wanted to go. And then tell him to slink off into the life of quiet, despairing poverty that’s all little people like him are due. Oh, but have him do it tomorrow, because I’m not quite done using him as a political prop to keep my taxes low.
Simply put, fellas, these are not the life lessons Dad was trying to teach you. He was trying to warn you about the sociopathy of goons like Christie – not just to save his own skin, but everybody’s. He’s too gentle and too sweet a man to tell you what he thinks of your cognitively and morally dissonant attempts at gratitude.
But I’m not.
Screw you, you classist ingrates. Screw you, TPM reader “JL.” And screw you most of all, Governor Christie. Screw you long and hard, on that miserable little cot you’ve just earned for yourself in the Dead Zone.
Days without a response from the publication that plagiarized from me and won’t come clean: 205.
Follow me on Twitter: @Schneider_Stv