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The Acela Republican

Chris Christie’s problem isn’t a pack of mouthbreathing staffers driven by spite and the petty thuggishness of an ugly, faux-Sopranos, tough guy campaign culture. The bridge scandal isn’t even all that particularly interesting.

Christies’s problem is that he’s 2016′s Acela Republican…and he believes his own press.

Who is the Acela Republican?

The Acela Republican is as comfortable in the green rooms of MSNBC as he is at a green energy conference. The Acela Republican isn’t one of those horrible Tea Party yahoos who comes from somewhere other than a big, coastal metropolis. The Acela Republican is softer, smoother, and less confrontational…unless he’s taking on his own party.

Then, he’s a ferocious scold. “Taking on his own party” is the passport of the Acela Republican to hundreds of stories about how he—and only he—can save the GOP. He talks about bringing people together, working with the other party, getting things done for everyone, regardless of politics…if only his own backward, hick, red-state, cousin-kissing bumpkin party will see the light.

Right now of course, it’s Governor Chris Christie. In 2012, it was Jon Huntsman. Most famous of all, of course, was John McCain. They’re not entirely new, but in an age of rising conservatism, the Acela Republican is just the kind of candidate America’s media class pretend they could almost possibly contemplate thinking of voting for in the general election. The Acela Republican is the one Republican who shares their contempt for the GOP broadly, and modern conservatism specifically.

Take John McCain. In 2008, McCain was The Maverick. The Republican who spoke truth. The rebel. The Media Darling. The go-to talking head for any Sunday show worth its salt. The theory was that McCain could sell the GOP with his ferocious streak of independence and integrity. With a history of glowing op-eds and a press corps that raved about his vaunted Straight Talk, McCain was confident that he’d broken the code.

Well, my friends…the moment Barack Obama appeared on the scene, everything the press loved about John McCain was either forgotten, subject to a sinister revisionism, or turned into a negative. Outrageous, patently false stories and unbelievably ugly attacks on McCain’s personal life, political character, and even his military service came fast, and without a scintilla of shame.

Conservatives wary of Chris Christie understand this better than many of the donor class who have embraced the Governor. They’ve seen this movie before, and know this pattern will repeat itself the moment the stakes are real and the second Christie is locked in as the nominee.

The big, genuine, authentic personality the press adores today? Watch the speed with which he’s reframed as a corrupt bully, a thug, a sweaty jerk with his finger wagging in the face of the little people. Those fiery, fun videos of him smacking around whiny teacher union reps will suddenly be windows into media analyses of a deeply angry, perhaps violent man. All it will take is one Vine of Christie losing it with some little old lady in New Hampshire, and we have the 47% story of 2016.

You can understand why the Acela Republican is blinded by the adulation and praise. You can see the cycle of addiction to the cheering and the media rewards given to him every time he scolds and chastises the Republican Party and the conservative movement. It will be too late when he understands that the price of the glowing coverage is a slow accretion of betrayal and insult to the very people who are necessary to win the Republican primary.

Christie had burned a lot of political bridges with conservatives well before his staff blocked one in real life. True to the Acela Republican’s way, Christie is much better known for his fights, conflicts, and criticism of the GOP than for his leadership against the Democratic Party. He’s quick off the mark to insult John Boehner or Rand Paul, but less so on Democrats like Barack Obama or his friend across the Hudson, Andrew Cuomo.

Will Chris Christie survive Bridgegate? Most likely. Will he be the Republican nominee? It was unlikely before the bridge scandal.

And last time I checked, the Acela doesn’t stop at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Image via Shutterstock

  1. Randy Weivoda

    I agree with this one hundred percent.  The last couple of elections we went with a middle-of-the-roader and the Democratic party essentially chose the progressive dream candidate – and cleaned our clock.  The one Republican in the last 30 years who won two terms by large margins (that would be Reagan) was considered an extremist.  It seems the American people aren’t so afraid of “extremists,” so why go with another moderate?

    This is my favorite line, but you forgot to mention racist.

    Rick Wilson: He talks about bringing people together, working with the other party, getting things done for everyone, regardless of politics…if only his own backward, hick, red-state, cousin-kissing bumpkin party will see the light.

     · 5 minutes ago

  2. MSJL

    It’s too early to say how this scandal will affect Christie’s 2016 hopes.  My lack of support for him is mainly that he doesn’t seem particularly interested in helping down-ticket GOP prospects.  For example, his decision to hold a special election for the Senate seat was a gift to the Democrats when it was already very likely he was going to win in a landslide and might have actually helped the GOP candidate’s prospects. 

    I would like to see the next GOP standard bearer working diligently to strengthen the party across the board, and not just where it is convenient for his/her prospects.  Regardless of whether Christie is being a scold, I need him to be a party leader as much as an effective candidate.

  3. Mike LaRoche
    Randy Weivoda: I agree with this one hundred percent.  The last couple of elections we went with a middle-of-the-roader and the Democratic party essentially chose the progressive dream candidate – and cleaned our clock.  The one Republican in the last 30 years who won two terms by large margins (that would be Reagan) was considered an extremist.  It seems the American people aren’t so afraid of “extremists,” so why go with another moderate?

    This is my favorite line, but you forgot to mention racist.

    Rick Wilson: He talks about bringing people together, working with the other party, getting things done for everyone, regardless of politics…if only his own backward, hick, red-state, cousin-kissing bumpkin party will see the light.

     · 5 minutes ago

    8 minutes ago

    Brilliantly said, by both of you.  It’s time the GOP quit trying to curry favor with those who hate it and nominate a candidate with solid conservative principles and accomplishments.

  4. Rick Wilson
    C

    Goes without saying? ;)

    Randy Weivoda: I agree with this one hundred percent.  The last couple of elections we went with a middle-of-the-roader and the Democratic party essentially chose the progressive dream candidate – and cleaned our clock.  The one Republican in the last 30 years who won two terms by large margins (that would be Reagan) was considered an extremist.  It seems the American people aren’t so afraid of “extremists,” so why go with another moderate?

    This is my favorite line, but you forgot to mention racist.

    Rick Wilson: He talks about bringing people together, working with the other party, getting things done for everyone, regardless of politics…if only his own backward, hick, red-state, cousin-kissing bumpkin party will see the light.

     · 5 minutes ago

    12 minutes ago

  5. T-Fiks

    Great exposition, but you should have provided an “acela” definition. Then I wouldn’t have had to google it.

    First listing I checked was the Urban Dictionary

  6. PsychLynne
    MSJL:  My lack of support for him is mainly that he doesn’t seem particularly interested in helping down-ticket GOP prospects.  

    I would like to see the next GOP standard bearer working diligently to strengthen the party across the board, and not just where it is convenient for his/her prospects.  

    One of the few areas where conservatives could take comfort in ’08 and ’12 was the success at state level governorships and legislatures.  It would be nice if the next GOP presidential candidate could build on that and be a force down-ticket.  Then we begin to evoke change in the present, with an investment in the future.  But that requires a broad perspective that stretches beyond what’s good for the candidate in the moment, to leveraging the moment for the future growth.  Not sure if Christie can do that.

    Of course, it would also be good if the next candidate could communicate effectively and, while I’m dreaming, if chocolate was calorie free.

  7. BrentB67

    Good words Rick. Republicans are not going to win the media with anyone ever. When they try to do so they just burn their support from the right.

    I think the lesson is this: Run to the right and let the enthusiastic supporters that live there carry the message at the roots.

    You are correct that when it is crunch time the media will run to the left. Every time.

  8. TeamAmerica

    @PsychLynne- Yes, we seem to have a poor choice- a politically skilled and good communicator, but possibly self-centered Christie, vs a possibly more principled but less skilled candidate like Rand Paul, Scott Walker, or a Scott or Snyder. A Christie likely has the skills to sway the low information swing voters, but might prove treacherous when in office. Since both WSJ columnist Kimberly Strassel and Michael Medved have noted that Romney did not lose due to a lack of conservative votes, but due to losing youth, women’s and minority votes, nominating a true-blue but unpersuasive candidate would likely mean defeat.

  9. Ryan M

    What a fantastic post, Rick! 

    I couldn’t agree more, even if I haven’t been saying the exact same thing (with far less eloquence) since Christy first began proving this to be the case – almost immediately after bursting onto the scene, in fact.

    I am happy to talk about how the blundering two-faced lapdog media rants on and on about “bridgegate,” while giving a pass to Obama for behavior that dwarfs anything Christy could even dream of…  but at the same time, I’d love to see the Chris Christy phenomenon finally squashed.

    As Brent says, we can ONLY win from the right, because we will be painted that way regardless, and if we do it from the center, then not only have we compromised our principles, we’ve alienated those who would actually support us.

  10. Rick Wilson
    C

    Thank you!

    Ryan M: What a fantastic post, Rick! 

    I couldn’t agree more, even if I haven’t been saying the exact same thing (with far less eloquence) since Christy first began proving this to be the case – almost immediately after bursting onto the scene, in fact.

    I am happy to talk about how the blundering two-faced lapdog media rants on and on about “bridgegate,” while giving a pass to Obama for behavior that dwarfs anything Christy could even dream of…  but at the same time, I’d love to see the Chris Christy phenomenon finally squashed.

    As Brent says, we can ONLY win from the right, because we will be painted that way regardless, and if we do it from the center, then not only have we compromised our principles, we’ve alienated those who would actually support us. · 20 minutes ago

  11. Randy Weivoda
    Ryan M:

    As Brent says, we can ONLY win from the right, because we will be painted that way regardless, and if we do it from the center, then not only have we compromised our principles, we’ve alienated those who would actually support us. · 36 minutes ago

    I know that some people will say “What are Republican voters, going to do?  Vote for the Democrat?”  No, most will vote for the Republican  just because he’s the second worst choice.  But they’re not going to invest their cash, their time, and their effort into helping to spread the word, register voters, etc if their candidate is just the lesser of two evils.  And in some states the race will be so close that this grassroots work can tip the balance.

  12. Sabrdance

    In the spirit of credit where its due -I agree with all of this.

  13. Plato

    reframed as a corrupt bully, a thug, a sweaty jerk with his finger wagging in the face of the little people. Those fiery, fun videos of him smacking around whiny teacher union reps

    Yes. His “I am not a bully” sound bite was a monumental miscue. How could a sentient Republican speak those words to the press? Old enough to remember Nixon, Moby Chris harpooned himself forever by that foolish utterance. Too late now. Woe is he! Oh, the huge manatee!

    Now he may never berate a deserving Everyman again. Smile at that surly waitress, big guy, and get used to it. You might as well lose what’s left of your impressive girth, because you’ll never get away with throwing it around again.

    So quick, rebrand as a sleek, muscular man of steely will and even temperament. Or else just be a good Governor the rest of the way, and retire to a long sinecure in the Senate. 

  14. Matthew Gilley

    Yes, yes, yes. No more Y.A. Tittles promoting hair tonic, please.

  15. Raw Prawn

    The thing about “bridgegate” that surprises me is the timing. The media is capable of sitting on a scandal until it’s useful to their agenda, or until it will do the least harm, depending on the subject. One example is the IRS scandal. Had the media been functioning as a watch dog, the IRS scandal could have been broken in March of 2012, not in March of 2013 when it was. 

    It’s been obvious Christie is the Republican the liberal media would most like to see run for President in 2016. Their agenda would have been best served had they sat on “bridgegate” until Christie had won the Republican nomination. The only explanation I can think of is that the media could not control their desire to punish Christie for barking back at them.

    The best characteristic of liberal “journalists” is that they are lazy. the second best is that they are petty. 

  16. Fricosis Guy

    Rick,  as I tweeted, my problem with this line of attack is that this is who Christie is. He’s from Acela country and he’s not a particularly principled conservative. That’s why he’s not my ’16 guy.

    But let’s not lump him in with Red Staters who moved to DC to blow smoke up our [expletives], then sell us out. Can we really expect a better Governor of New Jersey at this time?

    Also, I doubt he’s going to shrivel up and blow away in the face of Democrat competition. Unlike most of the other Quislings, he’s actually had some.

  17. Franco

    My sentiments as well. Great post. 

  18. Jeff Shepherd

    Joe Scarborough.  

    There’s Takers and Makers out there.  The Takers want to take more and more and more.  The Makers don’t want to give any more than there already giving.  The compromise of the Acela Republican is that the Takers get to take a just a little bit more.  Not a lot more, but a little more every time.  

  19. Peter Robinson
    C

    In the post that landed above yours, Rick, I suggested that Jeb Bush might be starting to look pretty appealing for 2016–and then, in the comments, Jeb and I both got the tar whacked out of us.

    In your astute and experienced judgment, who’s more of an “Acela Republican?” Chris Christie or Jeb Bush?

  20. BrentB67

    Re #16 – Yes