N.J. Republicans are letting Sweeney appropriate their strongest argument | Rooney

By Matt Rooney

Democrat Senate President Steve Sweeney isn’t a fiscal conservative, Save Jerseyans, but he does a much better job sounding like one than New Jersey’s beaten, beleaguered, and near-extinct Republican legislative caucus.

Just last week, in fact, Sweeney addressed a forum sponsored by the New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants and did his best Ted Cruz impersonation.

“It’s like the old ‘Network’ movie, where the anchor gets up [and says] ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.’ I need to get the public’s anger focused on the fact that there is no solutions coming out of Trenton,” Sweeney told the assembled professionals, declaring he’s ‘done’ with tax hikes.

We’ve heard this from Sweeney before in recent history. It’s all theater. Senator Sweeney’s caucus has voted to raise taxes and fees well in excess of a hundred times over the last decade, most infamously and recently in the form of Phil Murphy’s first budget monstrosity AND, of course, the 2016 gas tax hike which keeps going up. His party’s unwillingness to end the redistribution of funds from the suburbs to failing urban schools remains the single biggest driver of our state’s nightmarish, neighborhood-killing property taxes. But this is politics; Democrats in this state know most of you aren’t paying close attention and, if you do, the Media will cover their butts,

They also know Republicans aren’t challenging them on their B.S.

GOP Assembly Leader Jon Bramnick joined WNYC radio this week to break down his party’s disastrous state-wide midterm election results and struck a conciliatory tone, representing a jarring contrast to Sweeney’s ‘mad as hell’ approach.

“Our message in New Jersey as Republicans has always been one of fiscal responsibility and civility,” said Bramnick (R-21).  “I want people to know that as a Republican in this state, I want to respect people and bring people together.  And, if that message is not coming from Washington, it is going to come from me.”

Let’s review:

  • In a fair world? Democrats own responsibility for 99.99% of the tax increases in modern N.J. history.
  • Christie Republicans co-opt recent increases (and debt, most notably the $500 million ballot question which garnered NO legislative GOP opposition) — notably the gas tax hike — and in so doing deprive their party of the rhetorical high ground.
  • Democrats swing around to the right, in rhetoric only but with stronger language than their Republican rvials, and validate the taxpayers’ justifiable outrage.
  • N.J. Republicans — bizarrely accepting the other team’s premise that Republicans are the awful, mean bigots responsible for inaction without objection — plead with the hostile Media that Republicans are, in fact, capable of being civil and responsible.

To which pole do YOU think voters will continue to gravitate in this scenario, Save Jerseyans?

What’s been happening to the NJGOP in recent years isn’t a mystery. It isn’t complicated. And it sure as hell did not start with Donald J. Trump’s twitter account.

And do the people really want “civility”? When Cory Booker is one of our state’s most popular politicians while simultaneously running around the country accusing his opponents of being ‘complicit with evil’? 

This is debate 101, folks. The “new/different Republican” model doesn’t work precisely because it accepts the other side’s premise and ironically makes the aspiring ‘different’ Republican appear all the more generic; the better strategy would be arguing to our strengths (e.g. developing a loud, angry, aggressive, uncompromising, “we’re going to cut your taxes rather than simply manage the decline better than the Dems” message that resonates with the people who need to take us seriously), something I’m surprised a caucus full of attorneys can’t seem to wrap their heads around.

Taxpayers want an advocate… not a mediator.

A puncher… not a punching bag.

New Jersey is on its last standing eight count. All the same? Forget “saving” Jersey in the near term. I for one have no confidence whatsoever that Republicans in this state can compete in elections (let alone win a big one) until they get a little pissed off, screw their courage to the post, and quit allowing Democrats to set the terms of the debate and steal their best issues.

When N.J. Republicans allow Steve Sweeney and his tax-crazed Democrats to sound like a better vehicle for taxpayer outrage than themselves? They don’t deserve to win.