When Ronald Reagan was sworn in as president in January 1981, the country was at low ebb. Jimmy Carter had spent the four previous years running the nation into the ground, leaving unemployment above 10%, inflation above 15%, Communist operatives laughing at our perceived weakness, and Iranians holding 53 of our fellow citizens hostage for 444 days.
When Republican Chris Christie was sworn into office as governor of New Jersey earlier this year, the situation he faced was somewhat similar. His predecessors, among them Democrat Jon Corzine, had run the state into the ground. Because of this, Christie literally inherited one of the highest combined tax rates in the nation and a state government that was dominated by union thugs.
In 1981, Reagan rose to the occasion and spent the next eight years reversing the course on which Carter had placed America. And in July 2010, just months after Christie took office, even former naysayers are starting to admit that his approach to leadership in New Jersey is looking a lot like Reagan.
Christie has already vetoed a proposed “millionaire’s tax” in New Jersey, pushed a constitutional amendment capping property tax increases at 2.5 percent, taken on teachers unions and public sector pension plans, and cut the state’s “corporate business tax by nearly $100 million.”
Liberal groups, like the bloggers at thinkprogress.org, say Christie’s tax reductions, his opposition to new taxes, and his cuts in funding for teachers unions prove that he’s just another right-winger protecting the rich by placing increased burdens “on the middle class, the poor, and schoolchildren.” They even contend that his tax cuts are one of the reasons why Obama’s stimulus funds are failing to pull the economy out of its current economic funk.
But Christie sees it in just the opposite light, as he told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto: “We already have the worst tax burden of any citizens in America, when you combine all of our taxes. …[So] someone has to stand the line and say, ‘No, we can do this by cutting spending and reducing the size of government.’”
And while the liberals are coming unglued, students of Reagan, like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, are thrilled at what Christie is doing. When Limbaugh looks at the way Christie is willing to “stand up to [liberals] and tell the truth,” he sees a model that conservative politicians throughout the country should be following. And Hannity recognizes Christie as someone who may actually possess the fiscal responsibility and leadership necessary to turn New Jersey around.
Yet it’s not just through policy alone that Christie impresses people, but also through the manner with which he communicates his policies and the rationale behind them.
In other words, just as Reagan is often referred to as “the Great Communicator” because of how he talked directly to the people and presented things with clarity, so too the New York Times admits that Christie “uses clear language, doesn’t mince words, … and he says what he thinks.” Or to use Christie’s own words, he is “treating New Jerseyans … reporters … and union leaders … like adults.”
While it may be a weird concept for students of the circuitous oration that characterizes Obama-speak, Christie is straightforward in admitting that when he “feels something,” he’s actually “going to say it.”
No wonder conservatives in New Jersey and around the country are comparing Christie to Reagan and hoping he makes a 2012 presidential run.
The bad news is that Christie says the presidential run isn’t going to happen. The good news is that he’s still going to be in New Jersey, bringing his version of Reagan’s “shining city on a hill” to bear on union leaders and tax-hiking Democrats.
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