Jason Zengerle has a new profile of New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who apparently does his best to manufacture the famous YouTube moments where he berates constituents who disagree with him. But what interests me far more than his media strategy is his strategy for buying off local Democratic Party bosses:
His political alliance with George Norcross, the legendary South Jersey Democratic boss who has expressed “the highest regard for Governor Christie’s aggressive leadership,” has made things difficult for Sweeney, who was installed as Senate president as the result of a Norcross power play and now must simultaneously try to satisfy both his political patron and the Democratic legislators who want him to be a strong voice of opposition… Meanwhile, Steve Adubato and Joe DiVincenzo, two Newark-area Democrats who run the most powerful political machine in North Jersey, have become increasingly vocal in their support of Christie. “He’s a personal friend, and he’s been very helpful to me and my county,” DiVincenzo, who in November was elected to his third term as Essex County executive, told me. “As far as governors I’ve worked with, Chris stands alone.”
… “Christie’s managed to completely co-opt our party leadership,” says one Democratic legislator. How he’s done so is a matter of much theorizing in New Jersey political circles. One explanation is fairly prosaic: He’s simply engaged in the sort of transactional politics that have always defined Trenton, restoring nearly $17 million of proposed cuts to Essex County (thereby allowing DiVincenzo to avoid layoffs) and pledging $28 million in annual funds to a new medical school in Camden (the pet project of Norcross),
For all his promises of shared sacrifice, it looks like Christie has just replaced one patronage system with another. (The article also mentions dark theories of more criminal corruption, but I think political bribery is probably a sufficient explanation here.) For all the love he gets from national conservatives, it’s really fascinating that Christie’s budget-cutting strategy has been successful because of his willingness to play the same old game. It’s an interesting comparison with Obama, who manages to achieve liberal ends using the traditional levers of power here in Washington. The left seems to have a harder time looking past the sausage making.
As an aside, this Norcross guy is fascinating. He apparently runs South Jersey politics without ever having held elected office. I’ve been enjoying Boardwalk Empire, but I’m not so pleased to realize how alive the machine is in New Jersey!