He somewhat softened the impact by quoting a politician quoting an ancient playwrite, but Governor Phil Murphy risked losing his audience on Tuesday as he gingerly went out on a limb with a literary allusion.
“One of my heroes, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, quoted the Greek playwright Aeschylus on the evening of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” said Murphy. “Those words still give us comfort: ‘And even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.‘”
Rare in Trenton (the closest instance was arguably former Governor Chris Christie’s perception of ‘anxiety’ in the society, unleashing evocations of Sartre in the atmosphere) and in a culture of overridingly self-referencing contemporary politics, Murphy’s decision to trot out a literary reference nonetheless wasn’t the first time the Governor quoted the late Kennedy quoting the late Aeschylus.
In reflections delivered at a podium in Greater Abyssinian Baptist Church, Governor Phil Murphy permitted himself a mild endzone dance in the aftermath of Tuesday’s elections.
He gave a shout out to Mayor Ras Baraka for getting out the vote in Newark to help propel Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) to reelection.
“Thank you,” he told Baraka.
The two of them had moments earlier shown an emotional connection in front of an assembled congregation, the mayor telling President Donald J. Trump to stay out of Newark and the governor quoting Bobby Kennedy quoting Aeschylus to make a point about peace among American peoples.
Both sets of remarks won sustained applause and celebration at that time, even if today’s reception among lawmakers was either muted, puzzled, or both.