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Christie Princeton Speech – A Dangerous Demagogue

Defending Millionaires and Tax Avoidance – While Championing The Shock Doctrine

“It never ceases to amaze me” said the Governor, “the outrageous things that liberal academics in ivory towers are willing to say to try to preserve their failed status quo – and that is disgusting…he should be ashamed of himself.”

Christie added “but I’m not the least bit surprised, because I’ve been dealing with these type of liberal ivory tower academics who are completely in the tank for their liberal causes for my entire career…I guess they wanted to give the liberal academic in the ivory tower a chance to grand-stand – to try to vilify the administration…  Governor Christie  4/21/11

[Update below]

Governor Christie spoke at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School last evening, in an event sponsored by the Center for Economic Policy Studies.

Let’s just hope that during the day, Princeton professors provide real substantive economic policy to the students, because they didn’t get any economic thought from the Governor last night.

The Governor was warmly welcomed by the Princeton community. I guess few of them read or heard the Governor’s paranoid smear and shaming of “liberal academics in ivory Towers” (or maybe they did).

He was introduced by Princeton President Tilghman – who also appeared oblivious to the Governor’s views of Princeton and academic policy rigor. Tilghman gave unqualified gushing praise that virtually parroted Christie’s press releases.

Didn’t Tilghman have time to research or the courage to deliver her own remarks?

If not, given the obvious political controversy and role of the University, she shoud have simply given a standard factual introduction of the speaker, instead of uncritical praise and support of a litany of Christie policies.

I nearly gagged on Tilghman’s praise of Christie’s so called “commitment to reforming the public sector”, the 2% cap on local spending, and slashing state benefits and pensions. She cavalierly noted a list of these Christie accomplishments as talking points, as if these were universal and consensus great accomlishments. In doing so, she revealed her own complete lack of compassion and understanding of the many people and communities harmed by the Governor’s policies.

In a time of increasing political polarization and concentration of wealth and power in an oligarchic class, Tilghman should have avoided going there, if only to avoid reinforcing the negative stereotypes of Ivy League elitism.

And I just disagree with her “he said/she said ” framing of the Governor’s performance as based on one’s point of view: Christie was either “a breath of fresh air, or a gale force wind” – as if governing and politics is all a matter of simple personal and/or partisan perception.

While that may be a diplomatic way to evade controversy, it stains the notion of the noble role of the University as truth seeker and truth teller. And it provides a veneer of academic or intellectual legitimacy to controversial and ideological Christie policies.

I spent this much time on Tilghman, because I have high regard and great expectations for a University of Princeton’s caliber.

On the other hand, I had low expectations for the governor, and was not disappointed.

However, I was impressed by Christie’s rhetorical power. The last (and only) full Christie speech I watched was his State of the State. (I rarely watch TV). He has really grown far beyond his YouTube reputation and confrontational performances.

In fact, he was so good on some topics that he has become a dangerous demagogue – as in “a political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument.”

And the irrational “popular desires” Christie appeals to are not our better angels of solidarity, compassion, and meaningful higher or transcendent purpose.

Instead, Christie appeals to prejudices – greed, envy, resentment, alienation, class conflict, racism, and anger.

The demagogic dimensions of Christie’s rhetorical style were in full display as he explained why he thinks that the wealthy and highly profitable corporations shouldn’t pay their fair share in taxes.

Despite recent research, ironically by the “liberal [pointy headed] Princeton professors in ivory Towers” Christie so recently and so disdainfully mocked, Christie basically rehashed these derogatory and misleading remarks:

“I’m shocked to know that a liberal professor from Princeton believes in higher taxes on rich people,” Christie said when asked about the study. “What’s your next news flash? That President Obama’s running for reelection?” …

Cuomo have to deal with what’s real, and what’s real is what happens on the ground,” Christie said. “And what happens on the ground is, when they raise taxes, people leave to go other places, because they’re the most mobile people to begin with.”

Christie went on to defend tax avoidance as a rational – perhaps even noble – activity.

Of course rich people and corporations are going to evade taxes!  Of course the only thing they care about in life is the tax rate. And of course they would immediately move to Florida or relocate to North Carolina if NJ tax rates were increased! We’re not stupid. We know this. We don’t need facts and academic studies to tell us how our rich friends behave.

The same things with teachers. Don’t tell us were’s stupid. We don’t ned complex studies to know who the good teachers are and who are incompetent. And we know all this by back to school night!

But Christie immediately then put a human face on this unpopular and empirically false view about the millionaire’s tax.

You see, the reason that he doesn’t want to tax rich people is because it would force them to move out of state and miss all those special moments with their kids and grandchildren! Who knew?

You know, the little league games, birthday parties, school plays, family gatherings, and Spring concerts that make our lives meaningful.

Rich grandparents should only have to drive 30 minutes to see their grandkids, not fly in from Florida.

You see, he’s really a compassionate conservative who cares about kids, not a craven politician rewarding the rich and powerful!

Along a similar demagogic rhetorical line, at a time when he’s slashing educational spending and threatening to defy the Supreme Court on Abbott District funding, Christie cried crocodile tears for the poor kids trapped in failing public schools in Newark, Camden, Paterson, Tenton and Jersey City.

Christie then went on to validate Naomi Kline’s “Shock Doctrine”.

Basically, the “shock doctrine”  is when politicians manufacture or opportunistically use various crises or emergencies to impose highly unpopular and radical policies.

Christie confirmed the Shock Doctrine when he spoke about the alleged $11 billion State budget deficit, an alleged cash flow emergency, and fiscal crises he used to impose his deeply unpopular agenda. He did so in a matter of weeks and with very little legislative deliberation and no real democratic legitimacy.

Christie went even further, and openly expressed an affinity with and appreciation of – literally – dictatorial power – his words: the “need for a strong hand” that could “act with singular authority” to respond to the fiscal crisis by executive power instead of democratic legislative deliberation.

Bragging about his “Caesarian” like Executive Order declaring a financial emergency, in extraordinary and revealing remarks, Christie said:

“one stroke of the pen and you don’t have to deal with [the legislature or democracy].  It’s a wonderful power. I had no time for debate.”

That, my friends, is the Shock Doctrine in spades.

And the rhetorical veneer of protecting quality time with grandkids and the educational opportunity of poor black kids is pure Demagoguery.

Be warned – he is a dangerous man.

[Update: 5/27/11 – Asbury Park Press Statehouse reporter Mike Symons fact checks Christie’s speech – catches several lies and mis-statements: Gov. Christie slips when citing economic data -end]

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