Hugin should think before hurting the GOP any further

Bob Hugin’s campaign for the United States Senate was a disaster.  Everyone associated with it should be embarrassed, should wear the scarlet letter “L” as an external sign of their shame and contrition.

But there will be no contrition because these are people too proud to admit that their “vision” was flawed, that they outspent an extraordinarily flawed incumbent three to one and still lost badly.  Hugin lost to Bob Menendez, a Democrat incumbent so flawed that one in three Democrat primary voters rejected him.

What’s worse is that the Hugin campaign was deliberately designed to suppress traditional Republican turnout while enormous amounts were spent to create a surge amongst “soft” Democrats and Democrat leaners who had soured on Menendez.  The result of this strategy is best summed up when veterans of the Hugin campaign brag that they “won six Congressional districts.” Too bad that in five of those six districts, the Republican candidate for Congress lost, including two incumbents.  

As recently as 2016, all six of those districts had been represented by a Republican.  Now, just one remains.

Writing in the New Jersey Globe today, David Wildstein notes the re-emergence of Bob Hugin, addressing a meeting of Mercer County Republicans, placing his stamp of approval on the state’s first transgender candidate for the Legislature.  Here we go again. Let’s not learn the lesson that $40 million wasn’t enough to convince voters that Republicans are more reliable social liberals than Democrats, instead… try, try again.

The candidate Hugin spoke on behalf of is Jennifer Williams.  She is running for Assembly in the 15th Legislative District, a district that Republicans have almost no chance of picking up in 2019.  But because Jennifer Williams is the first transgendered candidate of either party to run for the Legislature, she will become a focal point of the 2019 campaign cycle.  Williams worked on Hugin’s campaign, so perhaps Hugin will provide her with the resources to make her campaign even more of a focal point.

The trouble is, 2019 will be a low turnout election, and Republicans are not fighting a statewide campaign but instead, are fighting to hold on to a few remaining Republican enclaves.  Is this the time to be highlighting “a different kind of Republican” or is it time to drag everyone who is likely to vote Republican to the polls? And as for non-traditional Republican voters, are these more likely to be LGBTQ voters or poor working class Roman Catholics?  Yes, there are choices to be made and making one choice often negates the other. So which is the surer bet?

Unfortunately, from all the hype, all we know about Jennifer Williams is that she is what some call a “transwoman”.  That is likely to be of little use in motivating traditional Republican turnout and – in the era of Donald Trump – unlikely to motivate enough LGBTQ voters to make up for what you lose.  The hoopla resulting from this “first” will most certainly bleed beyond the borders of the 15th District, turning off and giving up as it goes.  So that Republicans could neither gain the 15th or the boost necessary to save endangered seats.

For the good of her party, Jennifer Williams should play down the significance of her “gender” and instead focus on a message that aggressively defines the Trenton Democrats as what they are.  But can Williams even use the term, “Trenton Democrats”, as a negative in Legislative District 15? Williams claims to be a “conservative”, well this would be the time for her to craft a message that illustrates what that means.

Candidate Williams has secured the endorsement of the GOP establishment in Mercer and Hunterdon Counties.  We suspect that there will not be much competition for such a thankless task. We wish her well but hope that she does not become the “face” of this year’s Republican legislative campaign in New Jersey, and we hope Bob Hugin doesn’t make it his mission to make it so.

Why NJ Republicans are falling behind other states.

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How come Republicans do better there than here?  That’s a frequently asked question… and is just as frequently noted.

New Jersey Republicans have lost Republican legislators throughout the Christie years.  Whether we hold the Governor’s office or not, we lose.  Why?

Could it have something to do with our message and who it’s aimed at?

As a comparison, let’s look at neighboring Pennsylvania.  Pennsylvania went blue before New Jersey did… but went red in 2016 – providing the electoral margin that gave Donald Trump the presidency. 

In Pennsylvania, both parties play to their base.  As a result – according to a recent Philadelphia Inquirer analysis – blue areas are getting bluer and red areas redder.  What that means is that even when the top of the ticket loses – as it did in 2014 and 2018 – Republicans in the Legislature hold their majorities in BOTH chambers of the Legislature.  Take a look at the map of Republican representation in Pennsylvania’s Legislature in 2008.  Red is Republican and Blue is Democrat…

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Now here is Republican representation in Pennsylvania’s Legislature ten years later – in 2018:

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In contrast, both parties play to the Democrats’ base in New Jersey.  As a result, the situation is quite different for the GOP in New Jersey… “in retreat” would be a kind way of putting it. 

According to the Pew Research Center’s Religious Landscape Study, 70.6 percent of Americans self-identify as “Christian” – with 25.4 percent belonging to  Evangelical Protestant denominations, 14.7 percent Mainline Protestant, and 20.8 percent Roman Catholic.  With most Evangelical denominations, there’s over a 40 percent spread in favor of Republicans when it comes to voting habits.  So it follows that it would make sense to at least keep in touch with these voters and turn as many out to vote as possible.  And that’s exactly what happens in Pennsylvania.

But not in New Jersey.   

Transgender people only make up about 0.6 percent of the U.S. population—and of that already slim minority, just two percent of respondents to the 2015 U.S. Trans Survey said they were Republican.  Too often, this is who the GOP targets its message towards in New Jersey.

Don’t believe us?  Then read this statement from the Bob Hugin for United States Senate campaign:  “Bob Hugin strongly supports equality and opportunity for the LGBTQ community and will be a leader on these issues as senator.  If President Trump wants to roll back equality and opportunity for the LGTBQ community, Bob Hugin won't hesitate to stand up to the president.”

Can anyone point to a similar campaign statement made on behalf of the Pro-Life community?  Or the Evangelical community?  Or traditional values Christians of any kind?  All of these groups are far more inclined to vote Republican and are far greater in numbers than 0.6 percent.  But instead of making the most of what would come to them naturally, the GOP in New Jersey too often finds itself trying to expand that 2 percent of 0.6 percent… and hoping it will become a wave.

How else can you explain the fact that New Jersey was the only state delegation in America to send a transgendered person to the 2016 Republican National Convention?  And this is NEW JERSEY, where the party establishment selects carefully chosen insiders to run as delegates to the Republican National Convention.  In this case however, the candidate didn’t even need to run and instead was selected as a special, add-on delegate. 

How many Evangelical pastors got to go to the 2016 Republican National Convention as part of the New Jersey delegation?  How about some real diversity?

Hey, if a transgendered person can swallow the RNC platform, she or he is more than welcome in our big tent… but don’t throw out everyone else just to make it comfortable for her.  That doesn’t get you a big tent, it gets you the sack… you lose elections.

The transgendered person who got to go to the 2016 National Convention is a well-known activist for LGBTQ causes and is active with the LGBTQ Victory Institute Candidate & Campaign Training program for 2019.  The Victory Institute is in the process of training dozens of liberal candidates to take on traditional Republicans throughout the country.  In a recent news story, this LGBTQ activist/ RNC delegate had this to say about traditional Republicans:

“As a Republican, I’m disappointed.  I’m disappointed at how a minor offshoot of the Republican party—one that's very bent on religious freedom—is really directing our current administration to take away the liberty, freedom, and equality that millions of Americans who just happened to be LGBTQ currently enjoy.”

Traditional Christianity, Roman Catholicism, and Evangelicals are not “minor offshoots” of the Republican Party.  It’s the majority of America.  It’s a majority that enjoys its religious freedom and holds it dear.  It is a majority that does not want to see its daughters made to shower with anatomical males.  It is a majority that doesn’t like the creep of criminalization occurring in other countries when supposedly free people fail to use the “correct” pronoun to describe someone.

Save Jersey’s Matt Rooney recently wrote a well-received call to arms for New Jersey Republicans to rediscover social issues.  As we have seen, the embedded social liberalism and ongoing contempt for Christian conservatives by well-placed Republican operatives in New Jersey will make progress towards Rooney’s goal difficult but not impossible.  There is a lot of work to do.

Is AFP even a conservative organization anymore?

Can we get serious?

In America, there is a consensus, a generally accepted agreement as to what the word “conservative” means.  Take a poll.  Ask the average voter what the word means.  The four pillars of modern American conservatism are pretty easy to remember:

(1) The Right to Life.  Conservatives, real conservatives, Reagan conservatives, we oppose abortion.  Full stop.  

(2) The Second Amendment.  Hey, how many court rulings do you need before you finally get that the government has no duty to protect you?  In a Republic, that is on you.  Conservatives oppose the anarchy of crime.  We support gun rights, local police, and laws that are tough on crime – especially violent crime.

(3) Less Government/ Lower Taxes.  Conservatives know that smaller government and less government regulation leads to less spending and debt, which enables governments to cut taxes.  Conservatives also know that crony capitalism is a form of political corruption and as such is itself a tax on the goods and services used by ordinary citizens.

(4) Illegal Immigration.  Conservatives like America and American culture.  We welcome anyone from anywhere who wants to come here and join us and become an American.  We don’t want to be colonized by foreign cultures with authoritarian or anti-democratic traditions.  We don’t want to be told that we need to change to accommodate those who gate-crash the laws of our country. 

In order to call yourself a conservative in America, you pretty much need to be all four of the above.  Maybe you can get away with being a little mushy on one and still be considered a “soft” conservative.  But if you are bad on more than one, you need to think about why you are a Republican.  (Hey, haven’t these people ever read the PLATFORM of the party they claim membership of?)

That’s not to say that anybody is a “bad” person.  It’s just saying that you’re not a conservative.  See, the word “conservative” actually does mean something.  It’s not just a term of praise used in the proper setting to describe people we happen to like… or want to suck-up to. 

“Conservative” doesn’t mean “libertarian”.  It is per se a traditionalist point-of-view.  Conservatives want to C-O-N-S-E-R-V-E the traditions and values of our American Republic.  Unlike our libertarian brethren, we don’t want to replace Mom and Apple Pie with the Orgasmatron and the Orb.

That’s not to say that conservatives and libertarians (or anyone else for that matter) can’t agree on certain issues and work together.  But having a conservative point of view on this or that issue doesn’t make one a conservative.  Heck, Bill Clinton called himself a “fiscal conservative” – that didn’t make him a conservative.  It made him a liberal who saw the political advantages of conservative policy on issues like welfare reform.  He was still a liberal. 

And so we come to the especially Jersey-style, end of year crap that recently went spewing itself all over the Internet.  For years now, New  Jersey has been working very hard at being the place words go to lose their meaning.  Reading “The Right 40 Women to Watch in 2019” (written by AFP’s head honcho in New Jersey) it’s now clear that this trend has reached new depths of meaninglessness – with many of those mentioned being members of the “Right” only in the way that Hillary Clinton can be considered being to the “Right” of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. 

AFP – Americans for Prosperity – is the group formed by the super-rich Koch brothers as the political and lobbying arm of their business empire.  Anyone who knows anything about the Koch brothers knows that they come out of the Libertarian Party – in fact, one of the brothers actually ran against Republican Ronald Reagan on the Libertarian Party ticket in 1980.  Yes… THAT Ronald Reagan. 

And what a ticket that was… it supported everything from the decriminalization of narcotics and prostitution to America’s standing down as a world power.  If that crew had been elected, we’d still have the Soviet Union (and maybe they would have won).  But happily, Reagan won and the Koch operation was forced to rebrand itself as fake “conservative” – a move that started the process of unwinding the meaning of the word. 

Over the last decade or more, the Koch operation has done much to corrupt the conservative movement in America – in an effort to remake it in their own crony capitalist image.  Now they’ve come full circle and are back to advocating a soft-on-crime approach while pushing to flood the open market with recreational marijuana… this, in the midst of an opioid epidemic that is killing upwards of 50,000 people each year.

In fact, AFP in New Jersey has become so crony capitalist, so establishment, so anti-conservative values, that it has taken to shilling for far-Left politicians like U.S. Senator Cory Booker.  Just before Christmas, AFP paid for a mailing that lauded Senator Gropicus (a great moniker, courtesy of SaveJersey’s Matt Rooney) for a soft-on-crime package of feel good “reforms” that miss the problem entirely, but make for good media ads for his 2020 run against President Donald Trump.  Why the heck would AFP do something like that?  The Democrats don’t need the resources – they already have George Soros – now they have the Koch operation’s millions too? 

Among those women on “the Right” we were asked to “celebrate” were a half dozen who made the list because of their service on the just completed campaign of Bob Hugin for United States Senate.  Now maybe the writer didn’t get the memo, but Bob Hugin didn’t run from “the Right” and his campaign did all it could to distance itself from said “Right” – starting with millions in advertising assuring the electorate that he was a “different kind of Republican” who explicitly rejected at least one of the four pillars of modern American conservatism.  So WTF?

And since when did the legalization and sale of marijuana become a conservative issue?  Hasn’t anyone read about the vaping problem in our schools?  And this is with nicotine… imagine what it will be with marijuana?  And edibles?  How will policing the use of chocolate bars, peanut butter cups, and cookies work?  Candy for children… So how the heck did the “co-founder and executive director of the New Jersey Cannabis Industry Association” make a list of “women on the Right”???

Get out of your offices and talk to average people sometime!  Ask them if they think legalizing and selling an entry level drug in the midst of an opioid epidemic is a conservative political position?  Average voters will think you have lost your mind.  But there she is, on the list for being “at the helm” in her quest to “unleash a new industry within the State.”  What’s next?  Narcotics?  The legalization of human trafficking?  Prostitution?  Body parts?   Wait… it will come.

Rosemary Becchi made the list too.  She’s the president of a “new grassroots advocacy organization” formed in 2018 “to fight Jersey’s high taxes and propose policy solutions to the state’s complex financial problems.”  Except that she hasn’t.  Ms. Becchi is a DC lobbyist who has donated to the Democrats.  Hey, we get that lobbyists do that kind of thing, but let’s not call it conservative

Nobody has seen Ms. Becchi testifying in Trenton, or providing information to legislators, or even returning telephone calls from those interested in finding out more about her “organization”.  Cynics would say that it is nothing more than a front – a cover for her personal ambition to run for Congress.  This is something she openly explored against incumbent Congressman Leonard Lance (R-07) a year ago, with her “grassroots” organization forming a kind of parentheses between that and her expected formal announcement for 2020.

But as far as labeling her a “conservative” – we don’t really know where she stands on big government and taxes, leaving aside her unknown positions on abortion, the Second Amendment, and illegal immigration.  So who is trying to fool who here?

Finally, AFP’s list is memorable because of the genuine conservatives – four pillar conservatives – that it leaves out.  Champions like Marie Tasy and Christine Flaherty and Rev. Mandy Leverett… they are fighting to maintain the value of human life, to recognize the threshold of fetal pain, to end the trafficking of human beings and the sexual exploitation of women and children.  Of course, in today’s cash register world of “new industries” like pot and such, none of that matters – except that it does matter to conservatives, and there are a great many of us.

Also dissed were Freeholder Deborah Smith of Morris County – a great advocate for the Second Amendment – and incoming Sussex County Freeholder Dawn Fantasia who took down an incumbent Freeholder by winning 63% of the vote!  Nobody who made AFP’s list ever beat an incumbent.  Why are conservative winners ignored and pot pushers lauded as “conservatives”?   And how about an operative like Kelly Hart, the executive director of the Sussex County Republican Committee.  A four pillar conservative who actually won for Bob Hugin by more than was expected – outperforming everywhere but receiving scant recognition for it.  Obviously, there is a “cool girls” table, just as in high school, and some are not part of it… no matter how much they actually WIN elections. 

So in future, be a bit more judicious in who you label “conservative.”  Be honest with voters.  Stop telling them that you are something you’re not. 

Yes, we expect to hear arguments from pro-abortion, mushy on illegal immigration, soft-on-the-Second Amendment types who claim that they “feel” they are conservative.  But isn’t that just the times we live in?  We’ve all heard of gender-fluidity… well, these people are ideologically fluid.  And just as our chromosomes determine whether we are male or female, how we stand on the four pillars make us conservative – or something else.

Hey, don’t worry.  Not being conservative doesn’t make you a “bad” person.  And it doesn’t mean that you don’t hold conservative points of view on this issue or that.  You can still work with conservatives.  It just means that you recognize that you don’t come from the same ideological place that conservatives do.  And in your heart, you already know that, so let’s cut the bull and get honest with the voters.  Restoring their faith in the labels politicians apply to themselves will perhaps restore some measure of trust… for when the very words people use to describe themselves have no integrity, what confidence can voters have in anything?

The illusion of LGBT’s power to help Republicans…

Yes, we know it’s about the parties.  Who wouldn’t want to be invited?  The music is cool, the drinks well poured, the energy is just… better.  But none of this is about politics.

Once again we must, sadly, point out that Republicans do not benefit by currying favor with Garden State Equality and the state’s LGBT political bosses.  To have GSE high priest Chris Fuscarino’s benediction means nothing in a General Election and even less in a Republican primary.

Two incumbent Republican congressman came to an understanding with GSE that meant keeping social conservatives at arm’s length.  In return for dissing their base, their Democrat opponents lost Fuscarino’s blessing – but won (or appear to have won) their elections anyway. 

As with the case of Bob “I am a different kind of Republican” Hugin, wrapping oneself in a rainbow flag meant not a jot on the profit side – but very much depressed the base on the debit side.  Conversely, the one unabashedly social conservative Republican in the congressional delegation – the one specifically targeted for defeat by Garden State Equality – won re-election without much difficulty.  It appears he will now be New Jersey’s only Republican member of Congress. 

We suspect this is why the ever watchful David Wildstein placed GSE’s Chris Fuscarino in the losers column on Friday, over at NewJerseyGlobe.com.  Wildstein noted that the portly Fuscarino “missed the boat” by failing to endorse the Democrat challengers to the two GOP incumbents and instead “making his top target the only Republican congressman who won.”

Sigh… When will Republicans learn that the only sure way to earn the support of people who vote like LGBT is their top priority is by executing a change of registration form and running in the Democrat primary.  It’s all about the shoes, and red is just so out of fashion. 

The Hugin campaign would have done better in a Democrat primary.

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