This week’s lesson from the State House vax passport battle: the emperor has no clothes!

Since I launched Save Jersey back in spring 2008, folks, I’ve wondered – sometimes out loud, and loudly – what it would take for Republican legislators to collectively “grow a pair” and begin acting like a true opposition party.

13 years later, I’m (very) cautiously optimistic that this week may prove to be a turning point.

You’ve seen the story by now. Assembly Republicans with very few exceptions stood tall together on Thursday in the face of an unconstitutional attempt by Speaker Craig Coughlin to bar them from the State House. After trying unsuccessfully to use the State Police as his private guards, Coughlin relented for the day but not before delivering a petulant series of remarks slamming the troopers and accusing Republican members of playing politics by not submitting to the capitol’s new vaccine passport policy.

Coughlin was the day’s big loser. He actually sounded worse than petulant; he was condescending, nasty, petty, undemocratic, and exuding all of the worst characteristics of a wannabe strongman overreaching but then promptly falling flat on his face at the first sign of real resistance. Back to that in a moment.

Clockwise: Coughlin, Murphy, and Sweeney.

Regardless of what happens in court on December 13th, Republicans had a good day. Their voters voted for fighters and they finally got them. Consumer satisfaction is as important in politics as in any other business. The public mood is reaching a boiling point as the Murphy-Biden era continues to yield higher cost of living and no-end-in-sight to the Covid-19 hellscape. The Republican base, and some of the non-GOP voters who went Republican in 2021, sincerely want a caucus that’s willing to throw down, not roll over as they’ve done for many years. It’s not a question ideological purity but pure advocacy as some of us have argued for a decade or longer.

Some GOP members were simply waiting for an excuse to assert the caucus’s independence. I know so because we’ve talked about it. Others, I suspect, can read the writing on the wall after digesting November’s results. I don’t care why the right thing finally happened. Let’s hope they keep it up. 

The ultimate takeaway lesson from Thursday is nevertheless a simple one: 

The emperor has no clothes.

Bramnick-era legislative Republicans have long labored under the false assumption that minority status equals powerlessness. Nothing could be further than the truth; Churchill, Gingrich, and a host of other notable legislative leaders in the modern age serve as enduring examples of the potential of a well-led opposition caucus that’s (1) goal-oriented and (2) willing to throw punches. But the NJGOP languished in cowardice, disunity, and a dearth of purpose, and the end result was no results for a long damn time.

Will things now change for the better? Sure, Coughlin may use Thursday as an excuse to play with the GOP legislative staff budget or get cute with committee assignments. Phil Murphy will throw shade and level threats. Let them. Thursday was further validation of a fact that Senator-elect Ed Durr demonstrated in LD3 this fall: New Jersey Democrats have glass jaws. They’re second-rate bullies who’ve engorged themselves on the mistaken notion that their power, money, media allies, public sector union goons and blue-tinted district maps will protect them indefinitely from the will of the people.

If Republicans push back? Consistently, united, and with a purpose? Good things will come! And saving Jersey from the socialists and crooks driving her into the groun will no longer feel like an impossible dream.

Matt Rooney
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MATT ROONEY is's founder and editor-in-chief, a practicing New Jersey attorney, and the host of 'The Matt Rooney Show' on 1210 WPHT every Sunday evening from 7-10PM EST.