If there is any up side to the cynical media orgy surrounding Donald Trump’s entry into the Republican presidential race, it is that Trump threatens to take the wind out of the sails of fellow vulgarian, blowhard and presidential hopeful Chris Christie. Indeed, this is already in process.
Both Trump and the corpulent governor of New Jersey are heroes for the same demographic, appealing to the same level of baseness, ignorance, pain, desperation and resulting nastiness. Christie, unquestionably crude, but not stupid, is no doubt aware of this. No doubt, too, he is running scared. In what can be seen as a desperate attempt to regain his mantle as the king of straight talking, tough guys, (Christie enjoys the public spectacle of telling anyone who dare disagree with him to shut up, much to the delight of his fans) Christie delivered what may well be his most vulgar and base statement to date. And with Christie that’s quite a feat.
To wit: “ In an interview that aired on Sunday, CNN’s Jake Tapper reminded the New Jersey governor that he had advised people to punch bullies “in the face” during his first term as governor.
“At the national level, who deserves a punch in the face?” Tapper wondered.
“Oh, the national teachers union,” Christie replied without hesitation. “They’re not for education for our children, they’re for greater membership, greater benefits, greater pay for their members.”
“And they are the single most destructive force in public education in America,” he added. “I’ve been saying that since 2009. I’ve got the scars to show it, but I’m never going to stop saying it because they never change their stripes.”
To repeat: Teacher unions, according to Christie “are the single most destructive force in public education in America.”
A few facts: In the past decade teachers unions, of which I am a member, to their shame and possible self destruction, have made concession after concession to the billionaire and corporate “education reform “ nexus bent on privatizing public education as a major step in privatizing all aspects of American public life. So successful have they been in imposing their endless failed policies on teacher unions across the country, that the job I began a mere decade ago bares almost no resemblance to the job I will resume in September. Indeed, as teacher shortages around the country attest, I would never have entered it had I known the outright degradation that was coming. Moreover, in terms of benefits and pay, teacher unions have been back pedaling for years.
Christie knows this — even as he knows that most Americans, fed a steady diet of anti teacher propaganda for over a decade, do not. Christie also knows that, outside of blighted, grossly impoverished near Third World cites like Camden and Newark, by any standards unionized New Jersey teachers have consistently maintained a public school system that can rival any in the world. But no matter. Christie is keenly aware that there is an enormous and ever increasing number of justifiably enraged if politically ignorant Americans who are desperately seeking some one or something ( other than the forces that are at fault ) to blame for their manifest immiseration, wage stagnation, ever increasing work hours and absolute absence of anything remotely resembling job security. In short, for all the logical results of a neo liberal economy. Christie also knows that many such people dwell in a state intellectual and spiritual degradation that they understand equality as the place where all working people are as debased as they are. What they have been stripped of, they reason, all must be stripped of. It’s only fair. Why should you have what I don’t ?
It is to these people that Christie is appealing to with crude and violent desires to “punch the national teachers’ union in the face.”
Demagogues like Trump and Christie have nothing to offer but national bogeymen. For Trump, it is immigrants; for Christie, teachers. Such is their political lifeblood. Where a man like Lincoln appealed to the “better angels of our nature,” men like Trump and Christie appeal to the darkness that waits dormant in all of us. Just as their economic policies create a race to the bottom for American workers, so do their rhetoric create a race to the bottom for American politics.
Trump’s media saturated arrival — based exclusively on the outrageousness and ugliness of his statements — has upped the ante for Christie.
I can’t imagine, even a man with as little self control as Chis Christie, making as ugly and idiotic a statement as he did yesterday if Trump, however ephemerally, were not in the increasingly shameful picture.
Good. Let them engage in their battle of the tough guys hoping to be nothing less than the president of the United States. In the process may their supporters awaken and come to see how truly and deeply both men despise them.