Bramnick vs. Sweeney: The politics of competing plans

Good for Jim Florio… at least he remembers who he is.

When asked whether or not he would endorse law partner Doug Steinhardt for Governor, the former Governor put it very simply:  “He’s not the right party as far as I’m concerned.  I would not vote for him.  I’m a Democratic voter.”

Doug is the Chairman of the Republican State Committee.  The two are partners at Florio Perrucci Steinhardt & Cappelli.  This insight came courtesy of that doyen of bloggers… David Wildstein. 

But hey, Florio gets it.  Party means something.

It is the job of the leader of every legislative party caucus – the Speaker, the Senate President, and the minority leaders – to defend and expand their caucus at the expense of the other side.  Those are the rules.  It is first and foremost.  We all understand this.

Last week, Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick rolled out his plan for addressing New Jersey’s fiscal crisis.  It was a direct appeal to elect more Republicans to the Assembly and centered on what they would do if elected.

Bramnick did exactly what he needed to do.  After pointing out the fiscal evils perpetrated by legislative Democrats, Bramnick lays out three solid policy positions that points New Jersey Republicans in the direction of what we should be for

(1) Cap State Spending at 2% (just like local government spending is capped).

(2) Cut the State Income Tax by 10% (make NJ more competitive w. other states).

(3) Full Deduction of Property Taxes on the State Income Tax (a move that takes the property tax issue away from Democrats like Andy Kim, Mikie Sherrill, and Josh Gottheimer).

In a political sense, the Assembly Republican Leader’s plan does not demonize any organized, well-funded interest groups – it simply starves government for the benefit of taxpayers.  Bramnick makes war on spending, not people.  And that is good politics.    

Bramnick avoids the mistake made in 2015 by then Governor Chris Christie and his Republican Party.  Christie’s pension/health benefits commission called for many changes but he went further and directly confronted the unions and their members, demonizing them in the process.  Christie inadvertently created well-organized, well-financed cells of opposition in every Republican district in the state. 

Like this year, 2015 was a low-turnout election with the Assembly at the top of the ticket.  Public employee unions targeted Republicans and Democrat super PACs – including those controlled by George Norcross – poured money into the campaigns of Democrat challengers.  Republicans lost four seats – four friends by the names of Donna, Caroline, Mary Pat, and Sam.

Yesterday, Senate President Steve Sweeney announced his “bi-partisan” plan that targets many of the same people that Governor Christie pissed off in 2015.  It should be noted that Sweeney’s plan was formally rolled out after the filing deadline for the Democrat primary.  Unfortunately for Republicans… it is some months until the November election.

This is not about the merits of the “bi-partisan plan” but rather, it is about the politics and timing of the plan.   

Are Republicans in danger of repeating 2015 again? 

Will the super PACS’s controlled by Sweeney allies like George Norcross back up every Republican legislator on the ballot this year?  Or will they stay true to form and support their Democrat challengers?  Will the Republicans on the ballot this year end up getting it from both ends?

This situation might be different if New Jersey Republicans had taken the time to build a base of small dollar donors and activists.  But as fundraiser Ali Steinstra noted at the March NJGOP Leadership Summit, broad-based Republican fundraising can only be accomplished by appeals to the party’s conservative base.   

The GOP establishment in New Jersey is barely on speaking terms with its base, so the ground has not been prepared.  We have no equivalent to what the NJEA and the Norcross super PACs will throw against us, so pissing on a hornet’s nest probably isn’t a good idea.  At this moment in time, it is more likely to motivate the kind of turnout that will cost us another four or more seats in November.

Assembly Leader Bramnick has a sensible, Republican plan that addresses the problem of spending and taxation.  It avoids drawing fire from well-organized, well-funded interest groups.  Those on the ballot this year have a choice to make.

Bramnick has a message. Will NJ Republicans follow?

Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick recently released this most excellent video.  Bramnick starts by detailing what Republicans are against

But then, more importantly, Bramnick lays out three solid policy positions that points New Jersey Republicans in the direction of what we should be for

(1) Cap State Spending at 2% (just like local government spending is capped).

(2) Cut the State Income Tax by 10% (make NJ more competitive w. other states).

(3) Full Deduction of Property Taxes on the State Income Tax (a move that takes the property tax issue away from Democrats like Andy Kim, Mikie Sherrill, and Josh Gottheimer).

In the video, Bramnick is engaging, folksy, and compelling.  So finally, here is the core of something to move the Republican Party forward.  So why isn’t everyone banging the same drum? 

Two days after Bramnick’s video went up on Youtube, the NJGOP – the State Republican Party – blasted out its weekly newsletter via email.  There was some very good stuff in there.  Unfortunately, the Assembly Republican Leader’s video was not part of the newsletter.  An oversight that should be corrected at the earliest opportunity. 

On Thursday, the Garden State Initiative – a free-market, pro-business think tank – held a meeting about the state of New Jersey’s economy and how it can be improved.  All the experts present agreed that the business climate went south after the Democrats gained control over the Legislature, nearly two decades ago.

That said, the most prominent plan for recovery featured at the gathering was the one put forward by Senate President Steve Sweeney, a Democrat and so a leader in the party responsible for the downturn in the first place.  As with legislation protecting the Bill of Rights (specifically the 2nd Amendment) and culturally traditionalist social legislation (like the Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation Protection Act), the Senate President will always be handicapped in how much he can accomplish by his need to appease the far-Left of his party’s caucus.  In the end, Sweeney will go as far as Leftist Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg allows him to go – and is anyone under the illusion that this Marxist-lite fellow-traveler is pro-business or pro-taxpayer?

In a column published on his Save Jersey news website, Matt Rooney brilliantly dissected the Trenton Democrats last week…  

We hear a lot about the “working class” from Trenton, but each and every policy and budget are designed to put the screws to taxpayers in favor of keeping these rich guys and their power structures chugging right along.

What I’m saying is that Democrats’ lofty rhetoric doesn’t match their reality. On either side of this fight. New Jersey’s true form of government is a blend of socialism and oligarchy (with a sprinkle of kleptocracy for good measure).

So why aren’t pro-business and pro-taxpayer forces pushing the Republican Plan put forward by Bramnick and making its three points the basis of not only the recovery of our party’s fortunes, but those of the state’s taxpayers?  Why aren’t they pulling together behind the Bramnick plan, then building on it, to tackle the obvious divide between the haves (those municipalities who bathe in money, courtesy of the Abbott decision) and the have nots (those who pay the highest property taxes in America)?   

As New Jersey 101.5’s Dennis Malloy recently noted, the public frustration over property taxes and government in the Garden State is stifling:  “Being the state with the highest property taxes in the nation used to be the number one issue in almost any campaign for public office in New Jersey. Lately, (crickets)! Why? …most people have given up hope that it will ever be normal or fair or affordable to most people. There is no one on the horizon with the guts to be honest about it and promise to fix it…” 

And yet, in the midst of this frustration, there are thousands of brave souls who are spending their time and energy – both in and outside social media – to address the oppression of their neighbors and fellow taxpayers.  Too often, they find themselves on their own, without the assistance or direction from the Republican Party, the business community, or even established figures within the state’s conservative movement. 

Take the grassroots effort to Recall Governor Phil Murphy, as an example.  This effort is in the process of training hundreds of volunteers in the basics of one-on-one political outreach that could be harvested in future GOTV operations.  But is anyone providing them with any real assistance?  Listen to this appeal from one of the most effective recall leaders, Bill Hayden of Sussex County:

https://www.facebook.com/raidenhayden/videos/10214053859525724/?notif_id=1557702128406942&notif_t=live_video

In May 1940, the allied armies of France, Great Britain, Belgium, and the Netherlands faced the threat posed by a newly re-armed Germany.  One of the great myths about the Fall of France is that the Germans had more tanks.  They did not.  In numbers, weaponry, and armor-protection, the German tanks were outclassed by those of the French Army and its allies.  So why did the Germans so easily over-power the superior tanks of the French?

The French used their tanks piecemeal and fought actions individually.  Many were not even equipped with radios.  The Germans fought coordinated actions, in which not only individual tanks within a unit fought in support of each other, but entire units worked in concert with other units to achieve a particular goal.  It wasn’t hardware that won the battle, but tactics – how the hardware was used. 

The three major units of New Jersey’s Republican Party – the State Committee (NJGOP), the Senate Republican Majority (SRM), and the Assembly Republican Victory (ARV) – do not work in concert or present a unified message or vision.  From there is gets worse.  Each county, each candidate, each club marches to its own beat.  And the party is barely on speaking terms with the movement conservatives who make up its base and constitute its most loyal voters.  Working together could amplify a message and make it punch through to distracted voters.  But instead of amplification, we have a cacophony of murmurs, each from its own silo.   

Jon Bramnick has offered a simple, three-point way forward.  Everyone should amplify it.  That would make a start at working in concert.

At Thursday’s meeting, Garden State Initiative President Regina Egea said voters should ask every politician how they intend to lower the cost of living and the cost of doing business.  The Bramnick Plan provides the answers.

Rasmussen: 77% believe Syrians pose risk

Democrat President Barack Obama has a plan to resettle thousands of Syrian immigrants in the United States.  Republican Governor Chris Christie opposes it.  So do many other Republican Governors.  But Democrat Speaker Vincent Prieto supports Obama's resettlement plan and Republican Leader Jon Bramnick says it is too soon to say one way or the other. 

The Rasmussen Polling organization conducted a survey of 1,000 likely voters on this subject.  The survey was conducted November 17-18, 2015.  The results indicate that there is a high level of concern among American voters, with 77% reporting that they are very or somewhat concerned when asked the question:  How concerned are you that giving thousands of Syrians asylum poses a national security risk to the United States? 

52% reported that they were very concerned, 25% somewhat concerned, 14% not very concerned, 7% not at all concerned, 2% not sure.  Women are more concerned than men:  53% to 52% very concerned and 5% to 9% not at all concerned.

Along ethnic lines concerned vs. unconcerned breaks down this way:  80% to 19% for white voters, 74% to 19% for black voters, and 70% to 28% for other voters.

Along party lines concerned vs. unconcerned breaks down accordingly: 93% to 6% for Republicans, 64% to 33% for Democrats, 77% to 21% for Independents.

Poor and working class Americans are more concerned, with the very rich being the least concerned.  Those earning under $30,000 expressed the most concern, at 80% to 19%; with those earning over $200,000 at 74% to 18%.

For more information, visit Rasmussen at www.rasmussenreports.com/

These figures could change should ISIS and the other arms of Islamic terrorism decide to change tactics (as the IRA did in the 1990's), but there is presently no indication that they will.  In the meantime, ISIS seems as determined to rid the Middle East of Western influence as the Rutgers SuperPAC appears determined to rid the Legislature of Republican influence.

It looks as though our political landscape will continue to be moved by the threats posed by unsecured borders, the resettlement of people from frontline zones in the war on terror, and by government policy that makes it extraordinarily difficult to enter American legally but easy to enter and stay illegally.  We live in interesting times that will complicate the lives of legislators.