Governor Chris Christie equated the Tea Party with the Occupy Wall Street movement yesterday. That was a serious mistake.
The context of the mistake
Chris Christie made the equation at a town hall meeting in Little Falls, NJ. Someone asked him what effect the “Occupy Wall Street” protests would have on New Jersey. Christie pointed out that some protesters were picketing across the street from the Statehouse. Then he said:
I think that if you look at the Occupy Wall Street folks and the Tea Party folks, they come from the same perspective. They just have different solutions. What they’re saying is, “government is not working for me anymore.”
I understand why the Occupy Wall Street people have sprung up, the same way I understand why – two years ago – the Tea Party people sprung up. Because they are frustrated with what government is doing – and not doing – on their behalf.
Chris Christie seemed to divide the blame between Barack Obama and the Congress:
You have a president who is unwilling to drag people into the same room and bang heads and enforce solutions, you have a Congress of both parties who won’t talk to each other, won’t have a civil word for each other to get anything done. Yet at the same time we have people out in the country who are suffering, and they are playing games in Washington, D.C.
Chris Christie holds a town hall meeting in Hillsborough, NJ, on March 2, 2011. Photo: Bob Jagendorf, CC BY 2.0 Generic License
Chris Christie picked a bad time to suggest that Tea Party activists and Occupy Wall Street protesters were the same kind of people. A day earlier, he told Sean Hannity, on his radio program, that he “would consider” running for Vice-President. The Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ) picked the story up yesterday.
I’m not going to sit here and be arrogant enough to say I wouldn’t accept it when nobody has even asked me.
The SL’s Statehouse Bureau also quoted candidate Mitt Romney as putting Chris Christie on “anyone’s short list.” Christie endorsed Romney earlier this month.
How big a mistake?
Tea Party activists throughout New Jersey reacted in outrage. Nick Purpura of the Jersey Shore Tea Party Patriots called CNAV yesterday to express his thoughts. Three words summed it up:
How dare he?
Purpura went on to contrast the small-government ideology of the Tea Party with the big-government ideology of OWS. He referred briefly to some of the most disgusting behaviors of some OWS protesters, things no Tea Party activist would do. Then he accused “the Republican establishment” of “setting up” a Mitt Romney-Chris Christie ticket. He said that such a ticket would be little different from an Obama ticket.
RoseAnn Salanitri, candidate for the New Jersey Assembly in District 24, expressed dismay on hearing of Chris Christie’s remarks. She then speculated as to Christie’s motive:
It’s obvious that Chris Christie has realized that the Tea Party is not standing by him.
Today the Bayshore (NJ) Tea Party group and the Jersey Shore group announced something that might or might not be significant. The two groups formally endorsed businessman Herman Cain for President. Cain’s association with Tea Party groups nationwide is long-standing.
Chris Christie probably did not know that the Tea Party groups would endorse Cain today. But Christie had already alienated New Jersey Tea Party activists by endorsing Romney. His remarks of yesterday will only incense them further.