Free Markets, Free People

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.

~McQ

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

17 Responses to New Jersey, Tea Parties and real “change”

  • Obviously, the bad economic times have a lot to do with what is happening in NJ.  But I also wonder if this isn’t an example of a strategy (as it were) backfiring, with potentially long-term results.
     
    See, here in NYC, a running theme for years (decades, really) is the poor performance of students and of schools.  Poor management from the top, poor performance from teachers, poor performance from students, etc.  This usually leads to a cry for more spending on education, even though New York spends an awful lot on education.  I’m wondering if the bad economic situation is causing taxpayers to reconsider the idea that the only option for fixing education is to spend more and more money.  It might simply be that this time, the constituency wants to know why they’re not getting more for their dollar, especially with the highest tax burden in the nation.
     
    For a long time, the response to “our schoolkids are performing poorly” was that well, we need to spend more money.  Maybe at long last, the response is going to be “what the heck are you doing with all of the money we are spending????

    • TonusFor a long time, the response to “our schoolkids are performing poorly” was that well, we need to spend more money.  Maybe at long last, the response is going to be “what the heck are you doing with all of the money we are spending???? [emphasis orginal - dj505]

      I completely agree.  The paradigm has been “more money = better schools + smarter kids”.  People are learning that the paradigm is, to a large extent, crap.  Instead, they’re learning (slowly) that more money doesn’t do much for the kids, though it makes teacher unions and administrators happy.  On a personal note, I am constantly appalled at what my niece learns – or, more accurately, DOESN’T learn – in high school despite going to one of the better schools in one of the richer counties in No. Carolina.

      There are, I think, two basic problems:

      1.  People don’t look at school as a place for kids to get an education.  Rather, it’s a baby-sitting service.  Kid is off their hands for several hours each day, gets one or two hot meals that they don’t have to worry about providing, and may actually learn something.  Win-win all around.

      2.  People have no external standards by which to judge the performance of their kids and their schools.  I’ve seen this myself: kid comes home with lots of A’s and B’s on his report card and seems to have homework every night, so the parents contently believe that the school is doing a great job.  “Yessir, little Johnny’s working hard and getting great grades!” Never mind that little Johnny is getting A’s and B’s for work that is actually far too easy for his age / grade level and that his homework is mostly mindless busywork.  Again, my niece: for driver’s ed, she had to do a POSTERBOARD on the differences between city and country driving.  I think I did my last posterboard in grammar school, but this sort of pointless busywork seems to be normal for her high school.

  • I suspect that we will either have a constitutional convention within the next few years, or will suffer some external catastrophe that pushes all the current issues aside, or we will be in really, really big trouble as a country. We have lost our civic sense of each other as striving for the same goals but with different means. No country long survives that: there is always a demagogue to make the other side into the enemy.

  • NJ and Mass are red?

  • Bruce, I think you meant ‘Deep Blue States’.

  • WCBS’ coverage yesterday evening would have been laughable if it weren’t so pathetic. The two, whoever they were, were trying to portray Christie as a tax-<i>raiser</i>. Why? Because he’s cut state funding, therefore local tax districts must raise taxes. It’s another testament to liberal idiocy that if one tax is cut, another <i>must</i> be increased to compensate. In fact, the only thing Christie’s done here is shifted the decision of how much to spend toward the local level. Not completely, but as Tonus said, now people see at the local level just how much of their taxes go to pay for schools. It ought to be 100%.

    It isn’t perfect — a majority, under the guise of “democracy,” are still deciding to make everybody pitch in an equal amount – but it’s a damn sight better than Corzine’s years. Christie is the first governor in how many years who seems serious about shrinking the state government, not just freezing it or limiting its growth to inflation?

  • “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”

    Take their anger at BUSH and see how long that lasted.  10 years now?

    I HOPE that this signals a major CHANGE for America in the RIGHT direction.

  • Several points:

    First, it is mostly independents and Republicans who are upset. Granted, some Democrats are upset, or are no longer Democrats. But most Democrats are either happy with O or think he’s moving too slow.

    Second, if we elect Republicans and they don’t do what we want, who do we replace them with? Democrats? The Libertarian Party? The path to success I see–the only one–is to vote well in the Republican primary and then vote for whoever wins that primary (with some possible rare exceptions).  The Democratic Party shows no sign whatsoever of being right on anything of real substance. The Lbertarian party can’t play in the big leauges and seems more interested in cornering the market in libertarian utopian thinking than real politics.

    My point is that a knee jerk “vote the GOP out” reaction in 2012 will be a disaster, we need to push the GOP towards the correct line of thinking while keeping in mind political reality.

    Perhaps sometime soon there will be a real chance for a third party. I don’t see that yet, and more significantly I don’t see any existing third parties that are ready to stand up and take on that role. I’m currently making sure I’m registered GOP, since recently I was Libertarian, and that froze me out of GOP primaries. Instead I was selecting between candidates who’s priority was liberating weed or ferrets. Nothing against weed or ferrets, but those are not all that high on my priority list right now.

    • My point is that a knee jerk “vote the GOP out” reaction in 2012 will be a disaster, we need to push the GOP towards the correct line of thinking while keeping in mind political reality.

      >>> Tell you what, voting them out would seem to be a good way to teach them, wouldn’t it?

  • The new liberal tantrum is that Christie has almost twice as many staffers making over $100K as  Corzine had (34 vs 18).
    Any port in a storm, I guess.

  • I’m with you on this one, Bruce. I have been trying to temper my expectations about November so I’m not disappointed. But this school budget vote story you highlight is a very big deal. While it notes the approval rate was just 12 percent “the lowest in decades,” I’m curious about the usual approval rate. A good guess would be north of 80 percent. Maybe well north. Parents and communities in general are usually loath to deny funding to their kids’ schools. The fact that so many did shows that we are in completely uncharted political waters here. These people are voting “against their self-interest” as defined by Democrats. And in droves. That is because principle is trumping “self interest.” It is from such attitudes that sea changes come. 

    Dick Morris went out on a limb a few weeks ago and said the GOP will not only take the House with a rather comfortable majority, but take the Senate, too. He continues to insist that Barbara Boxer is in serious trouble out here in California. I’ll believe that only when it actually happens. But the fact that her seat is even in play in such a reliably liberal state allows me to indulge in a little more hopeful thoughts than usual.

    The anger out here in the electorate may not stay as hot as it has been all the way to November. But, like you, I’m guessing it’s been hot long enough to forge a stubborn determination in the electorate to throw the liberals out of power.

    • Boxer is pretty much even with the Republican challengers, and the momentum is in their favor. Obama flew out to fund raise for her. She is in trouble, and I for one want to see the day when she is just “madam” again and no longer “senator”.