When I arrived at Valley Forge Military Academy and College’s handsome Mellon Hall for the rally on Thursday evening, I was thinking about the Pennsylvania governor’s race in the upcoming November election. By the time it ended, the presidential race of 2016 was on the only thing on my mind.
Rows of cadets in smart navy and gray uniforms, a hall full of political supporters and a uniformed bulldog named Sgt. Leatherneck patiently awaited the arrival of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Christie crossed the Delaware River to stump for Corbett in his re-election run against Democratic challenger Tom Wolf.
In this season of our political discontent, who shows up for Republican political rallies?
All sorts of people do.
The crowd of some 300 Corbett supporters included many baby boomers like me, older senior citizens, and equal numbers of men and women. There were also a couple of families with young children. Attire ranged from blue jeans and t-shirts to blue blazers and bright neckties, from dressy to casual smart to just plain casual. If logoed sportswear is to be believed, there was at least one Penn State fan and one Radnor Baseball fan there. While white was the predominant skin color, people of other shades and ethnicities were definitely a presence at this gathering.
Bringing life to politics
State politics generally have a ho-hum effect upon me.
I decided to go to this Corbett/Christie rally after listening to Corbett and his opponent Wolf debate during a KYW Newsradio broadcast that I happened to catch in my car one day. It got interesting after Wolf accused Corbett of not being a “friend to education.” This accusation clearly angered Corbett, who proceeded to silence Wolf with a timeline and facts about how former Gov. Ed Rendell, and not Corbett, made major cuts to education spending.
Who knew Corbett could be so feisty?
Wolf on the other hand lacked specifics in his replies and sounded whiny.
Corbett brought that same energy to the stage yesterday. The incumbent stressed two of his administration’s accomplishments. Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate was 8.2 percent when he and his running mate, Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, took office in 2011, Corbett said. Not only that, Pennsylvania was in debt to the tune of $4.2 billion, noted the governor. So they passed balanced budgets and rid the state of that $4.2 billion deficit without raising taxes.
The unemployment rate today is 5.8 percent.
“We’re keeping our taxes low,” Corbett asserted. People are coming from other states to work in Pennsylvania because of our state’s lower taxes, he added. “I campaigned on less taxes, more jobs,” Corbett said. “I made promises and I kept them.”
Both Cawley and Corbett claimed that their opponent was telling tall tales about their administrations’ record of achievement and that a vote for Wolf is a vote for higher taxes. The governor also mentioned two local companies’ successes in providing jobs and building the state’s economy. Aker Shipyard in Philadelphia has contracts to build ships through 2025, Corbett said. Philadelphia Energy Solutions is producing American oil, not imported oil.
That positive economic news was good to hear.
Christie cuts loose
But the fun began when Christie hit the stage. So much of political presentation these days seems pre-packaged and unoriginal. Words and phrases sound as if they are chosen to either produce an effect or hide their true meaning. Not so with Christie. In person, this big guy with plenty of pep in his step just lets it fly in ways that are refreshing and often humorous.
“This election is about the affordability of Pennsylvania,” said Christie. “Tom’s opponent will make Pennsylvania unaffordable” by raising income, sales, energy and property taxes. Plus, Wolf is “vague” and won’t say what he’s going to do, Christie added. I knew that this “vague” claim was true, because that’s what I heard during that Corbett/Wolf radio debate.
New Jersey’s governor was just warming up in his assessment of Wolf’s political modus operandi. Christie really cut loose when he declared: “[Corbett’s] opponent has lied about him.” Wolf told an “absolute lie” about Corbett’s record on education in the state, Christie asserted. “We cannot allow a liar to win the governorship of Pennsylvania.”
Eyes widened and mouths dropped open in the audience as Christie continued.
“In elections, the only thing you can count on is the honesty and integrity of the person you put in that chair,” Christie asserted before declaring that he has worked closely with Corbett, and that the incumbent is “a good, decent and honorable man.” Candidates must ask themselves if they are willing to deceive the people they’re asking to vote for them, and if they are willing to give away their good names, he mused. Wolf has done all that in his efforts to win, Christie claimed, before posing the question “Do you want a governor who will lie to obtain power?”
This was more than political grandstanding with major wow-factor style. It had substance. As I watched Christie in action, all I could see was what our country desperately needs — genuine leadership. This likeable, gutsy guy has true presidential potential.
The crowd saw it, too. They couldn’t get enough of Christie.
When I left the rally and strolled past marching young members of VFMAC’s 87th Corps of Cadets as they crossed campus, I felt more than the crisp change of autumn’s chill in the air.
Much to my surprise, I felt hope for our United States.