Man... where to begin? I left New Jersey for five days in Las Vegas and sometime during my return flight home, all hell broke loose.
I guess I'll begin by admitting that I was already 98% sure that Governor McGreevey was gay. It was perhaps the worst-kept secret in New Jersey politics -- an institution famous for its poorly-kept secrets. As far as the other 2% goes, 1% didn't care and 1% didn't want to believe it. Let me clarify that the only reason I even fault McGreevey here is for cheating on his wife. But that's between the two of them, not between the Governor and the voters.
As a New Jersey Democrat, the revelation and resignation hit me like a ton of bricks. Democrats dominate the state, but only because our Republicans are even more inept. Our most prominent Republican elected officials would not even be allowed into the GOP in states like Texas. The less prominent Republicans only seem to be interested in further marginalizing themselves and their party by tilting further and further to the right in one of the bluest, most liberal states in the nation. But that does not mean that New Jersey Democrats should accept that our party is far from perfect and often muddied by unnecessary scandal.
This whole situation is enormously complicated and confusing on a personal level for those of us who support the Governor. It's quite sad to watch a good man be pulled down by a number of bad actors, as McGreevey had been almost since the moment he took office. But to see him go through this in such a public way is absolutely heartbreaking.
But this isn't about emotions. This isn't Oprah. This is DemWatch. It's about politics.
Without a doubt, a good number of Democrats in the state are breathing a sigh of relief tonight. Yes, our Governor is resigning, but the gubernatorial election is not until next year and we were looking for ways to get rid of him anyway. The web of scandal that McGreevey and a number of his closest supporters had wrapped themselves in had become too extensive to shake.
In recent months, stories that Senator Corzine would step in to take McGreevey's place had become both more prevalent and more plausible. Corzine did not come up through the same New Jersey Democratic machine that produced past Democratic leaders like McGreevey, Torricelli, and Florio. Corzine is cut from the Bradley/Lautenberg mold -- independent progressives whose wealth meant that they did not have to rely on the state party to win elections.
The stock Republican line in the coming days -- we've already heard it from so many -- will be that this is some sort of diabolical machination by the New Jersey Democrats (think about what we think of Rove and you'll understand what they think of the NJ Dems) to somehow subvert democracy.
But this is nothing but paranoid BS.
Far-right-wing former GOP gubernatorial candidate Bret Schundler -- already in the running for November '05 -- called McGreevey's announcement "the opening act in a drama that was pre-scripted by the leaders of the Democratic Party." In other words, the shadowy figures who run the state party forced McGreevey to out himself as a way to clear the decks for Corzine. This, of course, doesn't acknowledge the fact that we didn't really need to manufacture a scandal to marginalize McGreevey. Then again, Schundler got his rump kicked in November of '01 because most Jersey voters recognized that he was the type of delusional wingnut to really believe that sort of crap.
The other thing you'll be hearing a lot of from the GOP is that McGreevey should resign now, in time for a special election in November to complete his term. But as my Republican parents have pointed out, McGreevey is actually under no obligation to resign at all. Cheating on your wife with a man is pretty shocking, but it's not illegal or impeachable. McGreevey's resigning because, in the middle of a scandal, it's going to be awfully hard for him to govern. This isn't a Nixonian matter of resign or be removed. Therefore, there is no logical explanation as to why a special election should be held to finish McGreevey's term.
In any case, even the most deluded members of the state GOP should recognize that a Kerry landslide in New Jersey in November coupled with a Corzine candidacy for Governor is not exactly a winning prospect for them. Were there a special election, they would lose it.
Now, all of this aside, I do believe that this is an opportunity for the New Jersey Democratic Party to clean house. Oddly, this past Sunday morning, a longtime Democratic member of the Township Committee in the town I grew up in, Dan Grant, wrote a letter to the editor of the Star-Ledger slamming the state Democratic leadership as corrupt and driven by self-interest.
To a degree, Grant's letter was also driven by self-interest. ("The Democratic State Committee's lack of interest in ... supporting good, hard-working Democrats outside of traditionally Democratic parts of the state is clear;" Grant is from GOP stronghold Morris County.) But I agreed with the crux of his argument, going so far as to mention to my wife that it might be time for honest progressives in New Jersey to break with the traditional state machine. We could unite behind an organization like New Jersey for Democracy, potentially even running candidates under a "New Democratic Party" banner.
For the time being, I'll put this pipe dream on hold. I hope that this most recent shakeup will lower the boom on the vast majority of corruption in our party. I fundamentally believe that Jim McGreevey was a good Governor who believed in honest, progressive government. But I also believe that the questions constantly dogging his administration -- and also his choice of friends and acquaintances -- made it impossible for him to live up to his full potential.
I refuse to believe that a man with his charisma and intelligence does not have a future in New Jersey politics. So here's hoping that McGreevey is successful in facing down his demons -- both personal and political -- and comes out a winner. By and large, we're tolerant and understanding enough to vote for an openly gay man like McGreevey if he's the right man for the job.
His chance may yet come again.
posted by Scott |
| Monday, August 09, 2004
A Notice To Readers
I'm going to be on vacation in Las Vegas -- fighting for service worker labor rights and picketing the Aladdin on behalf of Linda Ronstadt, of course -- until Friday, but I figured I'd leave with you some good news.
In other words, were the election held today, Kerry would win pretty decisively. But we never know what's going to happen between now and then. For all we know, the election won't even happen (knock on wood). But this is undeniably good news.
posted by Scott |