Bob Hugin is a great guy. Really. He’s a good and decent man. It was unfortunate that he found himself in a Republican primary… this year. The fact that he persevered with such confidence and grace makes him a heroic, somewhat tragic, figure.
Bob Hugin could have run in the Democrat primary. $35 million… against Bob Menendez? Hugin had the issues right for a Democrat primary… and the media wouldn’t have pounced on a Democrat Bob Hugin the way they did a Republican Bob Hugin. The media love rich members of the One Percent when they are Democrats (it is a capital sin when you are a Republican)… they love woke, right-on pharma folk of the proper political affiliation. They would have forgiven him everything.
But Bob ran as a Republican, and he ran this year. A year when the media he wanted to appeal to was working to nationalize the election – to make it about Trump. That media ended up vouching for Bob Menendez, despite having formerly called for his resignation. That media still cuts it with the people who Bob Hugin wanted to convince: Democrats and liberal-leaners.
Rather than shutting down Menendez, Hugin’s attacks were used by the media as evidence that he – Bob Hugin – was a “bad” man. Of course, this only works with those who are open to receiving a message from the likes of Tom Moran and MSNBC. Unfortunately, they were precisely the voters that the Hugin campaign was aimed at.
Can we put aside the myth that Republican voters will come out no matter what, and dutifully vote Republican? That myth should have finally, once and for all, been discarded after the low turnout Assembly races in 2015, when Republicans AGAIN lost seats in the Legislature and were AGAIN provided with irrelevant excuses for having done so.
Oh the excuses! One year it is Christie’s fault, the next it is Trump’s, and in between, the dog ate it! New Jersey Republicans should set up their own public relations firm specializing in excuse-making. Excuses aside, New Jersey’s GOP establishment should understand that the days of Republicans “holding their noses” and voting are over.
Republican voters are like anyone else. Ignore them, say you are embarrassed to be with them, that you are “different” from them… and they will reward you in kind. As an experiment, try some of that language next time you are in public with your wife and her family (or your husband and his). Invite them out to a restaurant, then tell the host: “I’m a different kind of member of this family, I’m not really one of them… They are a little, umm… backward.” And say it so they hear it. Say it loud, like ten million dollars’ worth of loud, and see how they like it. Go ahead, try it. Get back to us on it.
And that’s what the whole Hugin campaign was based on, wasn’t it?
“I’m a different kind of Republican.” They are a little backward, a little off, but I’m with it. I am a cool Republican. Except that there are no “cool” Republicans. Not in the minds of the media. They only thought John McCain was cool when he was pissing on Bush. The moment it became about him and Obama, John McCain became a troglodyte in the minds of the media. After the dust settled, he became cool again, especially when pissing on other Republicans… especially when pissing on Trump. But when he needed them, the media screwed John McCain. So why even bother with them?
President Ronald Reagan understood the media (and they were a lot more condensed, more centralized, and a lot stronger back then). That’s why he talked past them – to the people. He didn’t give a damn about their approval. He fed them the diet he wanted them to eat and even when they shit it out it contained the kernels of his message. Reagan wasn’t afraid to be a Republican and to explain what that meant. He had a message that he tested and honed by human contact – by speaking to people, engaging them, listening for the examples that would be used in his speeches, turning them on to his way of thinking, building a movement of ideas and about issues that mattered to people.
How many Republicans today, in New Jersey, can explain why they are Republicans or what Republicanism is? At the big Republican show put on by the NJGOP last spring in Atlantic City, two professional Republican organizers up from Washington, DC, posed the same questions to attendees. Not only was there no apparent theme or connectivity between the responses, even the organizers couldn’t adequately provide reasons or an explanation as to why they were there in the first place. It was kind of sad.
What that confab did showcase, however, is the top-down meddling that has become the hallmark of the establishment in New Jersey, with a congressional candidate in a contested primary receiving top billing as the event’s featured speaker. Yes, there was resource-draining meddling in districts 2, 5, and 11 – in an effort to promote candidates who would fit seamlessly with the statewide message being promoted by the campaign of Bob Hugin.
Instead of building a grassroots coalition of Republicans and reformers – of the kind Ralph Nader wrote about in his book, Unstoppable – the Hugin campaign actually determined that their best chance lay in targeting “soft” Democrats and culturally “left-leaning” independents. But these are the very same voters open to arguments from left-leaning media like CNN, MSNBC, NJ.com, and the Bergen Record. So when the Hugin campaign pushed a relentlessly negative message about Menendez, those “independent arbiters” pushed back and were listened to.
This allowed the Menendez campaign to focus on making the link between Hugin and Trump – which the media backed up. The more the media pressed, the more Hugin denied Trump, the more he suppressed his own base. Meanwhile, the Hugin campaign went right on churning out GOTV communications and efforts to turn out those “soft” Democrats and culturally “left-leaning” independents who had by now been convinced by the media that Hugin was a “bad” man who was lying about Menendez. Gagged and gagged again.
In the days and weeks ahead we will be taking a proper, in depth, examination of the Republican operation in the Garden State. It will be a necessary, warts and all, detailed review. So stay tuned.
For now, we will leave you with this:
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” - Winston Churchill