The special election to fill the New Jersey Senate seat vacated by the death of Senator Frank Lautenberg takes place on Wednesday, October 16th. There was no need for a special election and no precedent for setting it on a Wednesday. Governor Chris Christie could have appointed a temporary replacement and then held the election on the same day he is running for—and running away with—the election for governor. The odd timing (we couldn’t wait three more weeks?) guarantees lower than average turnout (which historically hurts Democrats), and Christie will have November 5th all to himself. Welcome to New Jersey.
I’ve seen or read about or talked with a fair number of people who appear to be voting against someone or something much more than in support of a person or set of policies. Some of that is understandable. First, you look at the person, or the image of the person as he or she is projected in the media. If you don’t like Steve Lonegan’s affect—he comes across as proudly uncompromising, pointedly inflexible, virulently anti-Washington, and willing, it would seem, to throw his grandmother under the bus if she asked for a “government handout”—you’re not going to pull that lever. If you find Corey Booker’s persona to be alternately calculating and so amorphous as to seem at times slippery, you’re going to shy away from voting in that column.
Or not. In New Jersey, the Democratic Party has managed to offer up candidates so ethically challenged it’s a wonder more of them aren’t rejected by the voters. Actually, when it comes to state politics, they are. Enter Chris Christie.
The national stage presents another challenge. Voting for Congressional representatives requires (or should require of an educated electorate; see my previous post) the voters understand the issues at stake. They are local only insofar as your state has a particular need–say, money for a bridge to nowhere or help after a devastating hurricane. But with so many bills introduced into Congress with country-wide consequences, one wonders how a single district from each of one or two states known for outlier tendencies might disproportionately lay waste to potential legislation favored by the majority of us. At times like these, it might be worth asking: does representative democracy work?
The point is: if you’re voting for a Senator, you’re voting for someone who will represent your state, yes, but also the party whose platform and/or ideology most closely aligns with your vision for this country. Traditionally, at least in New Jersey, there’s always been room for compromise and crossover. Not this time.
Lonegan’s supporters are showing up at his gatherings with loads of signs detailing what they don’t want anymore, including: Obamacare, Obama, liberalism, socialism, and government. No compromise, no surrender, nothing that emanates from the Obama White House—nothing.
I hope a lot more people turn out for the special election than the pollsters are predicting. New Jersey residents are just as sick of the stalemate in Washington as people in the rest of the country.
The question is whether they think the way out of the mess is to dig in deeper and just say no.