Politics so Filthy


Asbury Park)– Long before his curious dismissal as a New Jersey “super-delegate,” much was made of Assemblyman John Wisniewski’s stewardship of Bernie Sander’s New Jersey efforts. As the dust was settling on Hillary Clinton’s historic, nomination-clinching victory, we took a moment to learn what Sanders supports had to say about Wiz’ efforts. PolitickerNJ reached out to readers on social media to learn their thoughts.


Some remarks rang laudatory:

“Regarding Wisniewski — it’s really not surprising to see the Wiz get behind Sanders despite the majority of the power players in NJ signing on elsewhere,”  Joe Orlando of Lake Hopatcong, told PolitickerNJ. “He has a very unique moral compass and doesn’t usually follow the rest of the lemmings off the cliff. We probably need more legislators like him.   He approached Sanders the same way. Factual. No crazy emotion. That’s just Wiz. He had the balls to stand alone and not back away.”
Other Bernie supporters, voters like Justin Rivera of Ft. Lee seemed satisfied if underwhelmed, “Wiz did the best he could with the cards he was dealt. Bernie didn’t put any time and money into NJ since California was way more important.”
Willingboro’s Chris Goldstein lamented Wiz’ unwillingness to leverage voter-friendly policy distinctions between Sanders and Clinton: “The Sanders campaign in NJ could certainly have made more of their candidate’s remarkable position on marijuana legalization,” Goldstein told PolitickerNJ. “There’s a strong push for it right now in the Garden State and an untapped resourced to bring in independent voters and fence-sitting democrats.”
Other feedback was downright scathing.
SaveJersey‘s Matt Rooney channeled his best anti-Machine liberal with this blistering commentary, “If the Wiz were serious about contesting NJ for Bernie, backing Alex Law would’ve been a good start. Camden County’s blue communities are fertile territory for a populist liberal message. Plenty of votes here. The Wiz didn’t. Why? He cares more about keeping the bosses happy to save his own rear end!”
Ouch! Yet, somehow, SaveJersey’s conservative wordsmith-in-chief reflects a sentiment that’s come up more than once this election season, especially after Wisniewski’s “personal” endorsement of conservative Machine democrat Donald Norcross in his primary earlier this month. The 99% of Sanders supporters who don’t play footsies with The Machine were horrified when the Norcross campaign construed Wiz’ endorsement as an endorsement form Sanders himself.
“With Democrats like him, who needs Republicans like me!?” quipped Rooney.
Brian Everett of Cherry Hill wasn’t overly critical but said the most visible evidence of Bernie support was usually grassroots-genrated. “I was much more aware of the Black Men for Bernie movement in Camden than any other sanctioned movement supporting Senator Sanders in the entire state of New Jersey,” Everett told PolitickerNJ.
My take: we all know that politics aint beanbag, but John Wisniewski’s decision to bracket Bernie on the ballot with incompetent, absentee Democrats was bad for the Sanders campaign and his supporters and his delegates. The candidates he chose didn’t lift a finger to get any votes. Wiz’s meddling gave the distinct, noxious impression that those bracketing efforts were designed to ensure Wiz’s “good friend” Donald Norcross – bracketed with Hillary – won as comfortably as possible. And all the man-splaining in the world won’t me dispel of that notion.
Hillary drubbed Bernie in the NJ primary so most of NJ’s delegation (79 of 126) at July’s Democratic National Convention is #ReadyForHer. That leaves 47 (or so) Bernie delegates who’ll represent over 323,000 NJ voters who #FeelTheBern. Whatever his motivations, John Wisniewski stepped up to lead Bernie’s NJ effort when no one else would. That makes him the leader. That’s how it works. Which is why so many Wiz- and Bernie supporters went ballistic when the NJ Democratic State Committee voted to deny Wisniewski tenure. If NJDSC Chairman John Currie though this contretemps would play out discreetly, he was terribly wrong. When BlueJersey first reported the story about Wiz’s dismissal amid “pretty speeches about unity” the onslaught of traffic crashed their server.
Wiz was booted by Currie who cited chairman’s prerogative for the apparent snub. Fair enough. But as Rosi from BlueJersey points out, Wiz “was lauded by Currie at the delegate meeting this morning, and given time to speak. Currie told us all that Bernie’s campaign proved that campaign finance reform is possible, and the grassroots do matter, there was applause.  But today’s vote – throwing off the DNC both members who backed Sanders without even telling them – suggests the party does not want us, does not welcome the young voters Bernie Sanders energized here, and can call itself ‘progressive’ and ‘grassroots’ and then 15 minutes later act like a cynical, self-protective political machine.”
Within 24 hours, a pro-Wisniewski petition began circulating online. Apparently some supporters are ready to make a martyr of Wiz: “Democratic bosses ousted John Wisniewski as one of New Jersey’s superdelegates because he supports Bernie Sanders. This is a dirty trick that exposes the lack of respect for diversity and independent thought. It must be reversed.”
That’s a gross oversimplification and not quite correct given Wiz’s cozy relationship to The Bosses of NJ Politics, but in politics perception goes a long way. And this just seems vengeful on the part of the NJDSC.
But not all Sanders backers are rushing to defend Chairman Wiz.
“The saddest takeaway from Wiz’s double crossing is that he doesn’t even have the comfort of his convictions now that it’s over,” one would-be Bernie delegate told PolitickerNJ off the record so s/he could let it rip.
“Instead of taking a stand for what are supposed to be democratic values and earning the punishment that was coming his way, he’s left with all of the punishment and none of what taking such a stand could have earned him. He had a real chance to stand up to the machine and make politics work for people again. His comeuppance is everything that is wrong with politics and everything he should have been using his position to stand up against.”
It’s possible that Wisniewski’s biggest problem was expectations management. After showing the world his tactical brilliance spearheading the BridgeGate investigations, maybe the rest of us just expected too much.
Jay Lassiter is a New Jersey political gadfly who takes at least 2 showers a day to remove the stench and grime of the NJ politics beat. He gave up his spot as a (token gay) Bernie Sanders delegate 1/2 through writing this column. Can you blame him? 
Politics so Filthy