The NJGOP is a party organization without a base of support -- and after the Governor leaves, the views held by its leadership will not match the aspirations of a heavy majority of its natural electorate. They disagree on issues like abortion, upholding the Second Amendment (as well as other Bill of Rights issues), and gender morphism (the new fundraising tool of the same-sex marriage lobby).
They will also be more deeply divided than ever along lines of class. If New Jersey Republicans were already living in a time-bubble of Kean-Whitman attitudes, that will get worse as they react to the flood of blue-collar and post-collar voters into the party, courtesy of Donald Trump. As the GOP's voters become poorer and grungier, the NJGOP's leadership will want less and less to do with them.
At the same time, the unification of the powerful New Jersey Democratic Party, the joining up of massive resources and a huge activist base behind a single mega-wealthy candidate for Governor sets in motion an existential struggle for the NJGOP in 2017.
In the era of SuperPACS, Republicans would have been lucky to have had the resources to defend all their incumbents in the General Election next year. But the way in which the TTF debate was handled this year has made the prospects for next year much worse. The antics of Jennifer Beck, Bill Spadea, AFP, and some in the tea party movement have opened the door to several expensive primaries. That will spend down an already limited supply of money and drive up the negatives of the eventual GOP candidate in a growing number of districts. Given the resources of the now unified Democratic Left the TTF debate itself has opened the way for them to contest a growing number of heretofore "safe" Republican seats.
The Democratic Left has the resources. Remember too that the Democrats already hold all three legislative seats in the 1st District -- the 5th most Republican district in the state. In theory then, there could be just 12 Republican legislators left standing when the dust settles. But the Democrats have won even in rock-ribbed Warren County, where they held the Freeholder Board within memory, and pre-Oroho they were able to contest and win a seat on the Sussex County freeholder Board. Given the right candidate and resources, the Democrats have been able to elect a Senator in Morris County.
The failure of legislative Republicans to debate their policy choices in an adult manner has led to everything from accusations of criminal misconduct to death threats against those traditional conservatives concerned about the monstrous growth of debt. The tone of the TTF discussion within the Republican tent has been suicidal and whatever is to be gained from building the radio career of former GOP candidate Bill Spadea will be lost in the pointless rage he has directed with malice and on purpose at Republican legislators. Through one-sided interviews, misrepresentations, and outright lies, Spadea magnified the significance of a 23 cents-a-gallon tax increase and taken the focus away from New Jersey's highest in the nation property taxes and highest in the nation foreclosure rate.
Liberal GOP insiders, like Senator Jennifer Beck, have stoked Spadea, given him permission to behave so irresponsibly. While refusing to address the TTF debt and opposing spending on roads and bridge repairs, Beck called for new spending for Planned Parenthood. Then she got Spadea to put out lies about a Republican colleague who is the Prime Sponsor of the most important piece of Pro-Life legislation this session. How is that for killing two birds with one stone!
This Republican on Republican fratricide will most certainly lead to primaries that the NJGOP and the Republican legislative committees cannot afford. The hatred driven by the Koch Petroleum-funded AFP, some Tea Party groups, and especially Bill Spadea at NJ101.5, is such that it should come as no surprise when legislators on both sides of what should have been a mature, civilized policy discussion end up with primary challenges next year.
Good job Beck! Good job Spadea! Good job AFP! Good job Tea Party!
Instead of a rational discussion, we have had an emotional mob forgetting that while their Social Security payouts have been increasing for inflation each year, for 28 years the tax on gasoline used to fund the TTF has not been adjusted for inflation. Let's run those numbers: The federal cost-of-living-adjustments were 4.0% in 1988, 4.7% in 1989, 5.4% in 1990, 3.7% in 1991, 3% in 1992, 2.6% in 1993, 2.8% in 1994, 2.6% in 1995, 2.9% in 1996, 2.1% in 1997, 1.3% in 1998, 2.5% in 1999, 3.5% in 2000, 2.6% in 2001, 1.4% in 2002, 2.1% in 2003, 2.7% in 2004, 4.1% in 2005, 3.3% in 2006, 2.3% in 2007, 5.8% in 2008, zero in 2009, zero in 2010, 3.6% in 2011, 1.7% in 2012, 1.5% in 2013, 1.7% in 2014, and zero in 2015. But the price we paid to maintain our roads and bridges remained the same. Didn't we ever wonder how?
One of the most interesting aspects of the operating style of Beck, Spadea, AFP, and some tea party groups is the way in which they vilify their opponents. A policy discussion over a long neglected adjustment for inflation of a revenue source was turned into an existential drama. As Paul Mulshine noted earlier this week, how did all these people survive when gasoline was $4 a gallon not so long ago?
The displacement of reason by emotion is the classic way of the fascist. So is the necessity of dehumanizing your opponents. That is how you get people to wish someone dead, to threaten it, or even to act on it. A colleague who you have known personally for years, who has been over to your home for supper, who has met your wife and children and you his, suddenly becomes an insignificance unworthy of human understanding.
The followers of such people are told that it is right to despise Republicans like Joe Kyrillos and Steve Oroho and Jon Bramnick and Betty Lou DeCroce. Their followers are told that under no circumstances should they meet with these "RINOS" because meeting another human being, on-the-level, person-to-person might give rise to thoughts of moderation, to an understanding that though we disagree on this issue, we agree on much else, or to at least the recognition that in another person's face, there is humanity.
"No, that is not the way," they hiss, "you must hate these people as you hate a cancer." All this dark energy over a policy discussion regarding how to address a long-neglected debt, over how to repair and maintain the roads every one of these people use every day. Wow! Wow! Wow and wow again!