Newly elected Democrat congressman Josh Gottheimer is in one heck of a pickle.
Gottheimer represents a Republican-leaning district in which Donald Trump got more votes than he did. And the economy in his district -- as well as the whole state -- has lagged behind much of the country, with persistent unemployment and underemployment, a high rate of foreclosure, record child poverty, and low job creation. It is exactly the kind of district that will benefit from President Trump's plans to create jobs -- good, well-paid, union jobs -- rebuilding the nation's infrastructure.
Unfortunately for Congressman Gottheimer, his base has gone nuts. They demand that Democrats like Gottheimer reject EVERYTHING Trump. They want leaders who sound like this:
But aside from the bad poetry, what is the policy agenda here? Where are the jobs? With an estimated net worth of $22 million, jobs for working class Americans isn't a concern that keeps Ms. Judd up at night.
Then there's the violence. Just one example: Pollster Frank Luntz was attacked by members of Congressman Gottheimer's base on Friday and he talked about the incident on Sunday’s Fox & Friends:
“A woman walked up to me in the Marriott Marquis and she shouted, ‘You fascist --’ and then two other words that would get me fired from your network [as Luntz tweeted later, the words were "mother f*cker"]. And she threw this red confetti glitter right in my eyes and she picked up another handful and she was no more than 6 inches away and I was covered with this stuff.”
“Since when do you have the right or just the ability to attack people in a private setting, in a private matter?” Luntz asked the Fox hosts rhetorically. “I'm gonna tell you something. These protests are out of control. The language is out of control. There are 8-, 9-, 10-year-olds watching this, they read these horrible words from these signs... And to have to face this personally?
"I never thought this would be America," he concluded. "I never thought this would happen in this country.”
Instead of calling out the juvenile antics of these super-rich "activists" (like Michael Moore, estimated net worth $50 million and Madonna, estimated net worth $560 million), the new congressman sounded apologetic when he recently explained to an audience at Ramapo College that he was attending the inauguration out of "respect for the office" as opposed to the man chosen to serve as President. This is a hypocritical position for a fellow like Gottheimer who, after all, is someone who worked for President Bill Clinton -- and who has never been known to criticize his former boss for the disrespect he heaped upon the office.
Congressman Gottheimer was reckless when he recently told the media that he would fight against "President-elect Trump, the alt-right, or anyone else for that matter." Linking President Trump to the so-called "Alt-Right" will only serve to inflame the passions of some of the nutcases we saw carrying on last Friday.
Warren County Freeholder Jason Sarnoski, a conservative Republican, noted:
"Congressman Gottheimer claims to understand why his fellow Democrats aren’t going to the Inauguration and says he respects their decision to peacefully protest. Understanding and respecting this choice is tantamount to agreeing with it and taking part in it.
Last night I was dismayed to see a young boy on the news starting a fire in the middle of a riot on a street because, using his words, 'Screw the President.' This is far from peaceful and far from constructive protesting. When leaders such as Josh Gottheimer support and encourage this type of protest, it undermines the foundation on which this country was built."
The Congressman's rhetoric about Trump and the Alt-Right plays directly to the most violent elements within Gottheimer's base. After all -- if you really, really do believe that Donald Trump is Adolf Hitler -- there is a logical course of action that is both chilling and insane (as well as illegal). And that is why Congressman Gottheimer needs to stop beating around the bush. That is why he needs to tell the members of his base who are prone to violence that they are over-the-line.
If he truly wants to be part of the Problem Solver's Caucus then he needs to ditch the rhetoric of hate. Quit feeding the base and focus on the district.