New Jersey, Tea Parties and real “change”
I mentioned a few days ago that Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey correctly identified the source of the voter’s anger in that state, ran on it, managed to get elected and now is in the middle of a very interesting and effective campaign to reign in government and government spending. I also mentioned that he’d probably get only as far as the public was willing to tolerate cuts to services.
Well, so far, it seems the public is still engaged and supporting him. Take yesterday’s elections addressing school district budgets:
Thirty-four of 39 school budgets in the county were defeated.
School districts spending plans were massacred at the polls during the annual school elections Tuesday as voters used the ballot box to vent their frustrations about higher taxes.
According to unofficial results at press time, only five of 39 school district budgets were passed, a 12 percent approval rate, the lowest this decade and possibly longer.
The only other time this decade that fewer than half the budgets failed was in 2006 when only 17 of 39 budgets won approval.
As the article notes, it was a “massacre”.
The Governor has pitted himself against a very powerful (and arrogant) teacher’s union which has, in the past and with Democrats in power, pretty much gotten its way. But because Christie has laid out the options and the reality of the situation faced by the taxpayers of the state (NJ has the highest taxes in the nation), the union isn’t in quite the powerful position it once enjoyed. Voters are letting it be known that, even if they don’t entirely support the Governor’s plan, they at least give it more support than that of the teacher’s union.
Interestingly, the turnout was not typical for these types of elections:
Unlike most elections, this year’s featured heavy turnout as voters appeared to come out in droves to weigh in on spending plans.
That’s an engaged and active electorate taking the opportunity, as the article notes, to “weigh in” on how their tax dollars are spent. And, for the majority of the budgets, they did not like what they saw (there’s a whole process that follows this that may see those budgets passed anyway, but if that happens it will only further inflame the situation).
Now I keep turning to New Jersey, a deeply blue state in most elections, to point to it as an indicator. Like the Tea Parties, what is going on in NJ is an indicator of the level of anger and frustration the electorate (to include Democrats) has with government at all levels today. The election of Scott Brown in deeply blue MA was another indicator. The Tea Parties a third indicator.
All of them are fair warning to politicians of all parties that this mid-term coming up isn’t going to be your normal election. I’m beginning to think sea-change. And I’m also beginning to think that if the newly elected group doesn’t work out, sea-change number 2 will follow in two years. I think the people are serious about changing the culture of government at every level, I think they’re more engaged than they’ve been in decades, and I think they’re going to stay engaged.
Pundits and politicians continue to whistle past this political graveyard saying that the American people will forget all of this by November, espeically if we see some light at the end of the “economic improvement” tunnel. That the public can’t sustain this anger for that long and it will wither away. While I admit that’s certainly been the case at times in the past, I think they’re fooling themselves if they think that’s going to happen this time.
So watch New Jersey during the run up to November. Watch what happens there. See if the people of NJ begin to turn on Christie and his program. See if his support begins to wane. I’m guessing it won’t – at least not before November. And if it doesn’t, I think the word “bloodbath” to describe the results of the midterms may end up being considered an understatement.