The political center of gravity in New Jersey not only moved yesterday, it was wrenched from its long-established place and shaken far away.
This is due to a Governor who has a clear sense of purpose and a clear grasp on the public mood. Governor Christie empowered voters to take charge of their school budgets – and their own property taxes — for the first time, with record turnouts for the usually sleepy April election.
The rejection of more than 50% of school budgets is remarkable for several reasons, not least of which is that it is the first time in more than 30 years.
Even in tax-sensitive election cycles (2009, for example), more than 70% of budgets normally pass. And we could have expected the “pendulum” to swing back against the Governor and GOP rhetoric, after voters got their “tax revolt” out of their system by dumping Jon Corzine.
Why didn’t matters return to normal? I think there was tremendous public awareness, even at the voter level, of what the Governor was trying to accomplish, and the positions he took. Voters’ attentions were further drawn to the debate by the soap opera ham-handedly created by the “death prayer” of the NJEA leader, and then skillfully exploited by the Governor, who managed to stay on tactical offense on the issues, and enjoy moral sympathy at the same time.
Voters were tuned in, listened to the issues, and then weighed-in with a mighty voice.
The NJEA and public employee unions have never been more discredited and rejected than they are today. No amount of negative attacks on the Governor can change this.
Strong, effective leaders are able to move the political debate, the policy center of gravity, through ideas, personality, and sheer will-power. This Governor has proven his leadership abilities and public policy on local budgets, employee compensation, and taxes will never be the same again. Bravo Governor.