Groundhog Day in N.J.

Each Groundhog Day, Americans delight in the esoteric ritual of taking a large rodent from its den and seeing what its divinations for the future will bring. An early Spring, or six more weeks of Winter? This is, according to lore, dependent on whether or not the groundhog sees his shadow.

The most famous seer groundhog is Punxsutawney Phil in Pennsylvania. Just across the Hudson River in New York, Staten Island Chuck is New York City’s groundhog predictor while Buffalo Bert serves the great Upstate. Here in New Jersey, there is the less known but no less accurate (for what that is worth), eminently aristocratic Lady Edwina of Essex in West Orange’s Turtleback Zoo as the state’s main marmot Nostradamus. County Executive Joe DiVincenzo will be present for the festivities surrounding the meteorological act of clairvoyance Friday morning. New Jersey’s other groundhogs include the late “Milltown Mel,” whose successor is yet to be secured, and Assemblyman Parker Space’s somewhat-less-than-Jersey-named “Stonewall Jackson VI” at Space Farms in Sussex County.

Six more weeks of winter or not, nobody will dwell for too long on what the groundhogs predict. But New Jerseyans should consider whether they will have the prospect of six more years of a Murphy—that is to say, First Lady Tammy Murphy’s US Senate bid. Should she win, New Jerseyans will be witness to, at minimum, a thirteen-year period of a Murphy in a major position of state leadership. It is estimated that the groundhog has about a 39-40% accuracy rating in its predictions, but Governor Phil Murphy beat the odds himself when he narrowly defeated former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli and was re-elected to the governorship. Prior to Governor Murphy, no Democrat had been re-elected as governor since the election of 1977. Governors Thomas Kean, Christine Whitman, and Chris Christie won re-elections, but as Republicans. For Republicans, seeing the Democratic curse broken and Murphy returned to power may have made them feel like another Phil, the protagonist of the 1993 film, “Groundhog Day,” where Bill Murray’s character, Phil Connors, repeats February 2 over and over again.

But the burrow is deeper than that.

Constitutionally, we cannot have a governor serve more than two terms, but while Tammy Murphy has rejected the idea of a political dynasty in New Jersey, the fact remains that her campaign represents a continuation—albeit a transformation—of the Goldman Sachs-anchored legacy of New Jersey’s elite political leadership. Former Governor Jon Corzine had begun his career as a bond trader, rapidly rising to become Goldman Sachs CFO in the 1990s, eventually leaving the firm with a hefty $400 million. He was able to outspend opposition, winning a US Senate seat, and then becoming governor following Dick Codey and McGreevey before him.

Two terms of Governor Chris Christie later, Governor Phil Murphy swept into Trenton, returning the state’s executive position to the familiar pattern of a Goldman Sachs alumnus. This time, however, even the First Lady, recently-turned-Democrat, was also a Goldman Sachs product. She worked there for a few years after graduating from the University of Virginia.

In the movie “Groundhog Day” Phil Connors finds himself trapped in a repeating time loop, where he is forced to repeat the same day, with the previous knowledge of what he has done. When he at first realizes there are no consequences, given that the day resets at the end, he goes off the rails. Only when he realizes that he can do good for the people, and not strictly for himself, is the curse finally broken. New Jersey, perhaps, is a self-perpetuating microcosm of this temporal echo, returning the ambitious over the able, the connected over the conscientious, and will continue to do so. Only if the political party establishment itself is forced to “wake up”—through the same premise, by doing right with the people over themselves—might they find a real break from the endless cycle of self-serving cronyism and play-for-politics governance.

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5 responses to “Groundhog Day in N.J.”

  1. New Jerseyans have been living Groundhog Day for the past 30 years of failed Democrat-Socialist-Communist policies, highest property taxes in the nation, No. 6 in the nation for highest income and sales taxes combined, and No. 1 for people leaving New Jersey because of unaffordability, traffic, high crime, overregulation, voter fraud (through computer voting machines, ballot stuffing and fake ballots), and just poor quality of life.

  2. Oh yeah… The Christie years were SUCH a revelation !!! 🤢🤮
    The current crop of blustering GOP idiots in Trenton are just baby obstructionist Trumpions. I totally long for the days of a moderate bipartisan government. But no… they cannot even begin to work with Democrats who although far from perfect are at least sensible enough to keep us from the HELL of Trump/Christie BS !

  3. Because most Republicans are really Democrats, you’ll never see Democrats like Republicans. And Republicans may not be able to solve all your problems, but Democrats are sure the cause of all your problems.

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