Looking at a popular GOP blog today we came across a paid advertisement on said blog by Assemblyman Jay Webber. The paid advertisement featured a quote from the blog's owner, calling Webber "The Conservative Conscience of the State Legislature."
Well, OK, fair enough -- but we remember when that blog was the chorus for the campaign of an establishment GOP gubernatorial candidate named Chris Christie, and we remember when Assemblyman Jay Webber was so besotted with candidate Christie that he wouldn't appear in public with then-AFP State Director Steve Lonegan, because he thought the movement conservative was going to challenge Christie in the primary.
On the whole, Jay Webber has been a fine Republican legislator, but he has often straddled the line between being an establishment politician and a movement conservative. An admirer of President Ronald Reagan, in October of 2014 Webber wrote a strong argument for increasing the user tax on gasoline in return for the elimination of the estate tax. It was a classic conservative argument that showed how much he understood conservative policy and the effects of different types of taxation.
Unfortunately, Webber would later reverse himself in order to bask in the kind of alt-right populism served up by "Red-Shirt" broadcaster Bill Spadea -- a Reagan critic who rejected Reagan Republicanism for third-party populism way back in the 1990's. As evidenced by Spadea, the alt-right isn't so much an ideology or a set of policies, as it is an attitude and an anger.
We have heard from members of the alt-right who think all government sucks and who say they are taxed too much and then reveal themselves to be public employees and go on to complain that their taxpayer-funded benefits are not enough and their pensions are not secure. Where do they think the money comes from? We have heard from alt-righters who live off government disability complain about the government that taxes others to pay them. Anyone who can engage us all day in social media debates is certainly employable as something in today's economy. Instead of bitching, go find a career, a job, and get to work.
Many of the same people who want tax cuts see nothing strange in concurrently asking for more "free" stuff from the government. They aren't thinking balance sheet. They aren't thinking at all. It is emotion. They are the same who believe that they should get paid more for what they do while everyone who provides the services they take for granted should be paid less. The military who guards them should be paid less, ditto for the police and firefighters, bridges and roads should appear miraculously and for a minimal cost, ditto for clean water, electricity, and on and on. And if they don't get their way, all that they want, for as cheap as they want it, then they can always tune in to the man on the radio and throw something.
Those who proselytize or celebrate this juvenile anger, this rejection of adult reasoning, are calling for the end of rational government. We will end with two sides -- each appealing to deranged emotion, each perpetually lying to their followers, each refusing to belief in anything the other side says -- governance as a kind of thug life.
Rob Eichmann could see all this. Elected to the Republican State Committee from Gloucester County -- on movement conservative Steve Lonegan's ticket -- Eichmann rejected the emotional pap put out by some and always carefully weighed the various attributes of any given policy. He looked to the Republican Party Platform for guidance -- and to the conservative policies of Republican leaders like Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp, and Newt Gingrich. Eichmann was the NJGOP's conservative conscience.
Shortly after Chris Christie won the Republican nomination, Christie and the NJGOP were asked by Rob Eichmann and other members of the State Committee to embrace the platform of the national Republican Party that was debated and passed at the Republican National Convention in 2008. Christie declined to endorse that platform and his appointed State Party Chairman -- Assemblyman Jay Webber -- got quite nasty towards Rob Eichmann and those pushing the NJGOP to embrace basic Republican principles.
Under pressure, NJGOP Chairman Webber promised to put a committee together to draft a "statement of principles" for the NJGOP. That was in 2009. That committee has yet to meet.
Another Republican National Convention came in 2012 and an updated party platform was debated and passed by the assembled delegates. Governor Christie was the keynote speaker at that convention. Nevertheless, he did not endorse or to allow his state party to adopt the platform that was democratically chosen at that convention.
In 2013, the NJGOP went a step further and launched a campaign to defeat sitting members of the State Committee who supported the national Republican Party platform and candidates who said they would do so. They used state party funds, supposedly under the control of the State Committee, to defeat sitting members of the State Committee, without any formal vote allowing them to do so.
One of their chief targets was Gloucester County State Committeeman Rob Eichmann. At the time the conservative was hospitalized, suffering from cancer, and was in no position to fight back. The NJGOP ignored pleas to take this into consideration and launched an aggressive and negative campaign to defeat Committeeman Eichmann using the State Committee's own money. Eichmann was defeated along with the other conservatives who supported the Republican Party platform. Rob Eichmann, the conservative conscience of the NJGOP, died a few months later, aged 48.
Last year was 2016 and yet another Republican National Convention has come and gone. The NJGOP has still not formally adopted the platform of the national Republican Party as its own. The NJGOP and its candidates have no guidance as to the principles and policies that inform their party. And so we get the case of Kim Guadagno, candidate for Governor, see-sawing between the gross pragmatism she openly practiced for over seven years and the dishonest "cover" she has accepted from the alt-right in an attempt to quickly "re-make" herself.
If Assemblyman Jay Webber wants to earn the title "The Conservative Conscience of the State Legislature," he needs to stand up and start demanding that the NJGOP adopt the RNC platform as its own. Without a written explanation of what the Republican Party stands for and what it means to be a Republican, our ability to recruit and train others to recruit new members is limited.
It is time for the NJGOP to declare what it is and what it stands for. If it is informed by the principles of the national Republican Party and the platform of every Republican President from Ronald Reagan to Donald Trump, then say so. If it is not, then please explain what it is that you stand for and the policies that you intend to pursue if elected. Simply having the word "Republican" in your name is not enough.