Both Democrat Mikie Sherrill and Republican Jay Webber gave a good account for themselves at Wednesday night’s 11th Congressional District Debate, broadcast on NJTV and moderated by Michael Aron. Sherrill has been in the lead throughout the campaign, and she needed at least a tie in the debate to stay ahead. She got at least a tie, and in that sense, she was the strategic victor in the debate.
Yet even more significantly, Webber emerges from the debate with two major issue vulnerabilities resulting from his fealty to Donald Trump. The first is with regard to the economy, and the second involves Donald Trump’s refusal to seriously consider the alarming report of the United Nations documenting the imminent global danger from climate change.
The financial markets have experienced a massive downturn over the past two days. The reasons are indisputable – the irresponsible and reckless Trump tax cut has resulted in a nightmarish deficit, causing escalating interest rates, and the Trump trade wars, particularly with China, are resulting in major losses of overseas markets and rising inflationary import prices. Both these trends threaten the future of the healthy economy Donald Trump inherited from Barack Obama. Jay Webber thought the state of the economy would be an advantage for him, but down the stretch of this campaign, the perceived future of the economy is a major liability.
Trump has done many unethical, stupid, and even wicked things since he became president. Nothing he has done, however, is both more frightening and irresponsible than his endangerment of the planet by his rejection of irrefutable climate change science. Trump’s anti-intellectualism and economic illiteracy make him an unfit president, but his refusal to do anything to combat climate change, especially when its effects are most visible with the Florida hurricanes, constitutes a mortal threat to the future of all Americans.
Except for Pleistocene epoch Republican Seth Grossman in the Second Congressional District, Webber has associated himself more closely with Donald Trump than any other New Jersey Republican Congressional candidate this year. He has not disassociated himself from the bankrupt Trump policies on either the economy or climate change.
That gives Mikie Sherrill major opportunity over the remaining weeks of the campaign. While she did not press her advantage on either of these issues at the debate, she will be able to do so for the remainder of the campaign. Donald Trump is an ideal candidate for Mikie Sherrill to run against. He also is a rapidly declining political attraction: Fox News doesn’t even broadcast his rallies any more.
I like Jay Webber. It genuinely puzzles me why he has so closely associated himself with Donald Trump. As individuals and as political figures, the two could not be more different.
Jay Webber is an outstanding family man who values the need for government to protect women and provide them with equal opportunity. Donald Trump is a misogynist with a record of alleged sexual predatory behavior.
Jay Webber is an authentic intellectual who admires, as I do, the life and philosophy of the eighteenth century famed Irish statesman, Edmund Burke, who served as a Whig member of the British parliament. I doubt that anti-intellectual Donald Trump knows who Edmund Burke was. Burke believed profoundly in deep respect for institutions and societal norms. There has never been a president more destructive of institutions and societal norms than Donald Trump, who seeks the destruction of the independence of both the Justice Department and FBI.
Jay Webber is a classical conservative in the tradition of Ronald Reagan who believes deeply in democracy and the Constitution. Donald Trump is not a conservative at all, but instead an individual who aspires to be a narcissistic autocrat.
For Jay Webber, the Constitution is a document to be revered. For Donald Trump, the Constitution is a scrap of paper, shamelessly to be flouted, as he does with his total self-aggrandizing continuing violation of the Emoluments Clause.
While Webber respects his electoral opponents and critics, Trump dreams of incarcerating anybody with the temerity to criticize or run against him. Reminiscent of an American Juan Peron, Trump is in all his shameful glory when he stands at a rally and exhorts the crowd to shout “Lock her up” with regard to Hillary Clinton and Diane Feinstein.
Jay Webber respects the First Amendment and freedom of the press. Donald Trump uses rhetoric at his rallies encouraging his followers to threaten members of the media.
Both Jay Webber and Mikie Sherrill are excellent candidates. Webber, however, has made the fatal misjudgment to wear the mantle of Donald Trump and Trumpism in this campaign. This gives Mikie Sherill a decisive edge, along with her financial and enthusiasm advantages. I expect her to win. In fact, I believe that her future may well include her election some day as a New Jersey governor or U.S. Senator.
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 under former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman.