Chris Christie, the Sloganeer in Chief

This is commentary from political blogger and cartoonist Rob Tornoe.

During his inaugural address back in 2006, then New Jersey Governor Jon “I lost $2 billion” Corzine promised that he would do what is best for the state, and said to the audience, “Hold me accountable.”

That one, simple line became the rallying cry for Republicans, who trotted it out every chance they had until Corzine, a Democrat, got what he asked for, and was booted out of office after just one term. 

The takeway – slogans are important.

Fast forward four years, and here we have another governor, this time it’s blowhard Chris Christie, spouting slogans of his own. But Christie has been more like an assembly line of late, revamping and relaunching slogans as if he were running Henry Ford’s assembly line.

This summer alone, we started off with the “Jersey Comeback,” referring to the Republican Governor’s imagined return of jobs and lost revenue to the Garden State. Once most residents realized it was just a mirage, he shifted to “The Endless Summer Tour,” which pleasantly evokes the image of a relaxing day at the shore. Too bad it sounded similar to Obama’s “Summer of Recovery” (with just about as much success). Another slogan destined for the trash bin of politics.

Christie has now graduated to a new and slightly clunkier moniker “Christie Middle Class Reform Agenda,” apparently trying to appeal to voters with a fourth grade education completely ignorant of a lot of his policies. What’s next, “Me Do Good Jersey?”

Christie touting a slogan linking himself to middle class reform is akin to President Obama trying to claim the mantle as the anti-war President. 

For starters, the property tax burden for average New Jersey homeowners has jumped up over 20 percent during Christie’s first two years in office, yet he’s still pushing for a billion-dollar tax cut that overwhelmingly benefits the rich. See, he’s got the your back, middle class!

That income tax cut that Christie’s pushing like a carny at Seaside Heights would give a family earning $50,000 a little less than $7 back a month. “That is the first thing I want to do, return some more of your money back to you” he told a crowd during his town hall appearance in Howell. Seems to me he could save middle class taxpayers more just by ending those self-aggrandizing events all together, which includes nixing the “Christie is great” promo video paid for by the Republican National Committee.

He’s also failed to help the middle class by slashing the earned income tax credit on low-income workers, in effect raising their taxes (don’t worry, in the GOP, it’s totally cool to raise taxes on the poor. They’re just freeloaders, after all).

He could have avoided this if he wasn’t so stubborn and just raised New Jersey’s gasoline tax, which happens to be the third-lowest in the country, or if he didn’t veto the tax surcharge on millionaires not once, not twice, but three times. 

Come to think of it, some of that money might have also helped to prevent cuts to women’s clinics, education programs and medical services for the elderly, all of which help New Jersey’s most needy residents. But why do they need services when they get a new, shiny slogan instead?

It’s funny to think back to Corzine and his “Hold me accountable” line. Republicans successfully used to it make the case that Corzine was a failed governor, and he didn’t deserve a second term in office. But do you remember their main argument?

”Does Corzine really want New Jerseyans to hold him accountable for the skyrocketing unemployment rate and the nation’s highest property taxes?” asked Mike Schrimpf, the communications director for the Republican Governors Association. 

With the highest unemployment rate in 35 years and even higher property taxes than Corzine, it might be time for Democrats to trot out that same line of attack against our Keynote Governor and use it as their own slogan.

Or perhaps they should co-opt something Christie actually said, like what he told an administrator who complained that his total compensation might be capped. I can envision the sign now: “Christie: Let me help you pack.”—–

Rob Tornoe is a political cartoonist and a WHYY contributor. See more of his work at RobTornoe.com, and follow him on twitter @RobTornoe.

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