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A Whiff of Wallace

A Politician’s Rhetoric On History Suggests Values and Public Policies

In my post taking exception to Asbury Park Press columnists John Schoonejongen’s defense of Goverrnor Christie, I made reference to George Wallace.

I wrote that Chrisite’ rhetoric was “closer to George Wallace than a diverse and progressive state like NJ.”, a remark I stand by. Our Gov. exudes more than a whiff of Wallace to this nose.

Well, in a reply I just received this morning, Mr. Schoonejongen, took me to task, again defending Christie’s use of words, while calling my allusion to “white flight” “an incredible stretch“:

Did the governor use the words “white flight”? I don’t have a transcript or the full tape in front of me to know. I would assume he did not or that would have been amplified fairly quickly.

If he did not say those words, then it’s an incredible stretch to imply that he was praising white flight because he talked about how his parents moved him to Livingston as a child to provide him with a better education. He has on more than one occasion used that example to argue for school choice for those he says are trapped in underperforming districts. You can like that approach or not, but it’s a major stretch to call that a George Wallace moment.

Incredible stretch? I think it’s called a “dog whistle”.

I don’t have a transcript in front of me, but the Gov. favorably described his own family’s experience of an extremely controversial historical period in not only Newark, but urban America.

So, how can Gov. Christie’s rhetoric about the recent history of a major social issue, land use pattern, and economic phenomena that many historians refer to as “white flight“, get boiled down to just one public policy issue, i.e. so called “educational choice”?

Do words and phrases and descriptions of history only literally denote meaning?

Can there be no connotation? No implied but obvious deeper meaning? Everything is interpreted as literal?

I was past that point intellectually in grade school – how can NJ media be so naive and stupid?

Just contrast Christie’s version of history with Barbara Buono’s. Obviously, in presenting her personal narrative of upward mobility and opportunity, Buono transmits liberal values and implies a broad set of public policies.

Why does Gov. Christie’s personal history get boiled down to “educational choice”?

Here’s my reply to Mr.  Schoonejongen:


The governor DESCRIBED white flight from his own family’s experience, in a positive way. That’s praising it.

There’s a lot of cultural baggage, history, and public policy implied in that description, far more than just “educational opportunity”. Just why did all those white people leave Newark in the 1960’s?

I think the academics and liberal pundits refer to that kind of rhetorical practice as a “dog whistle”.

If you think that’s a stretch or that I’m exaggerating, then ask yourself why Ronald Reagan kicked off his 1980 Presidential campaign with a State’s Rights speech in Neshoba County Mississppi?

Books have been written about how Republicans have played the “southern strategy” – and it all gets tied back to George Wallace, thus my reference. See

Getting back to NJ:

Buono did a similar thing when she DESCRIBED upward mobility and opportunity in her appearance on Lawrence O’Donnell’s show. The Buono version of history transmits its own values and public policy, and is not limited to “educational opportunity” by media.

So why is the Christie version interpreted literally and delimited so narrowly?


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  1. jean
    March 25th, 2013 at 14:55 | #1

    a forest “stewardship” plan for Weldon brook wma was sent to “stakeholders” (who are they?) for cmoment. funding from wildlife management institute was obtained to help with the implementation of the plan. THE PUBLIC NEVER GETS ANY NOTICE OF THIS TO ANY EXTENT AND IS NEVER CONSULTED ABOUT WHAT IS DOPNE TO HABITAT NEAR THEM. WHY DO WE LET THIS CONTINUE. (I PERSONALLY DO NOT CONSIDER AUDUBON AS ENVIRONMENTALLY ASTUTE)

  2. March 25th, 2013 at 21:01 | #2


    thanks for the heads up on that – read the plan just now.

    Will write about it – justifying logging on the backs of birds is pretty low.

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