To use a Rooseveltian phrase, January 6, 2021 was a date which will live in infamy. It will long be remembered for the only insurrection against the United States government ever incited and inspired by a President, Donald Trump.
And the events of that day resulted in the toxification of the Republican brand, both nationally and in New Jersey. The toxification did not just result from Trump’s traitorous behavior. Rather, it was a direct consequence of the acquiescence of virtually all Republican political figures nationally in the perfidious conduct of the president.
For over four decades, both as a Republican governmental and campaign official, I could not have been more proud of the GOP brand, both nationally and in New Jersey. The brand featured two proud characteristics, rule of law and patriotism. Now, as a result of January 6 and Republican acquiescence in Trump, most voters identify the Republican brand with mob rule, rather than rule of law, and white nationalist sedition, rather than patriotism.
The word “acquiescence” is defined as “the reluctant acceptance of something without protest.” There are two prominent examples of individual Republican acquiescence in Trump’s January 6 disgrace, one national and the other in New Jersey. Both these accelerated the toxification of the Republican brand.
The national example is House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy. His refusal to join with House Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi to create a bipartisan commission to investigate January 6 was an ill-disguised shameless attempt to shield Trump from accountability. This is in marked contrast to the Watergate scandal hearings in both the Senate (Ervin Committee in 1973) and House (impeachment hearings in 1974), where members of both parties worked together with a remarkably reduced degree of partisanship.
The New Jersey example is Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli. He has gone out of his way for the last two years to ingratiate himself with MAGAWORLD. Accordingly, he totally lacked the political courage to call Trump to account for one of the most disgraceful abuses of power in American history.
Instead, he said nothing about Trump’s primary role in fomenting the violence, but instead inaccurately placed the blame on both parties for creating the “hyper partisan rhetoric that” he claimed inflamed not only the Capitol riot, but the violent protests in cities last year.
Then, Ciattarelli came out with a pathetic evasion of Trump responsibility:
“No one is innocent here. We need a bipartisan, zero-tolerance policy on this behavior — both in word and action, As someone aspiring to be governor and the leader of our state, I am committed to leading the way and making New Jersey a model for how our country can move forward.”
Ciattarelli’s acquiescent response to Trump constituted both an abdication of leadership but even worse, a further destruction of his own party Republican brand. Since January 6, the Republican brand has been further damaged by the national Republican effort to suppress the African-American vote. And the New Jersey GOP voter suppression effort constitutes the final destruction of the influence of Tom Kean’s Politics of Inclusion within the NJGOP brand.
And the toxification of the New Jersey Republican brand is the primary reason for the futility of Jack Ciattarelli’s campaign for governor.
With the Republican low registration numbers in the Garden State, no Republican candidate for governor can be elected unless he persuades Democrat and Independent voters of the value of his programs and proposals. Democratic and Independent voters, however, won’t even listen to a Republican candidate for governor if the GOP brand is toxic.
One of the most inane comments I heard from a GOP “savant”
was that the wise strategy for Jack Ciattarelli would be to prevent Murphy from goading him into any discussion of Trump. With the following video of the events of January 6 published this week in the New York Times, I doubt that any Republican statewide candidate can avoid a discussion of Trump and that nightmare day in American history. And I guarantee that Murphy’s top flight media consultants, Brad Lawrence and Steve DeMicco will make sure that you see portions of this video many times.
I also expect that the toxic Republican brand will have two malignant effects on the Ciattarelli campaign. It will severely impact Jack’s ability to attract an “A-List” Lieutenant Governor running mate, and it will hamper his fundraising.
I think Jack Ciattarelli may outpace Barbara Buono’s 2013 Campaign – but not by much.
Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.