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It’s election season – Get your pooper scooper ready.

January 21, 2014

If New York and New Jersey are any indication, voters will need to put on their logic hats and get out their pooper scoopers early in this political cycle.

Take New Jersey, and the controversy surrounding Governor Christie. This regional flap would appear to be over an alleged  abuse of power by the state’s highest elected official, either directly, or indirectly through staffers. To people that don’t live in the area or weren’t directly impacted by the traffic-impeding lane closure on the George Washington bridge, it’s fodder for 30 seconds of  break room conversation, and simply reinforces the negative stereotypes of the area fostered by many movies and  television shows.

In the larger political context, it might well be a portent for how the next two election cycles are going to go.

Logically, it is a given that politicians are going to reward friends and make it uncomfortable for enemies. But you do start to wonder, as supposedly bullied Democratic victims take to the airwaves with tales of how they were threatened by the governor’s operatives, where was all that negative publicity during the campaign? It would seem that in a very blue state voting for a Republican governor, all that alleged misuse of power would have been trotted out repeatedly to bolster the chances of the Democratic candidate.

The Hoboken mayor says she didn’t think anyone would believe her if she had made the alleged threats public at the time. Since when did believability ever stop anyone in politics from airing negative reports during an election? If there were no attack ads during elections, there would be no press coverage at all, and this allegation would have sold a lot of ads, whether it was true or not.

Then there is New York. On the one hand you have the election of Bill de Blasio, an unabashedly liberal progressive populist  as mayor of the largest city in the state who immediately declares war on anyone who can’t qualify for a government program by virtue of economic status. Add to that Governor Cuomo, who flatly states that conservative candidates don’t have a chance in the state, because he has determined that all the state’s residents are also liberal progressives. On the other hand, you have an estimated $323-million taxpayer-funded campaign to lure businesses to the state by promising them they won’t have to pay taxes for ten years. Maybe that ad campaign should include a disclaimer that conservative-owned businesses need not apply.

As to whether Governor Christie’s team stepped over the line of political tit-for-tat, you have to ask yourself a few pointed questions. Would this have been picked up and blasted out on the national airwaves if Christie wasn’t the party-anointed, although undeclared Republican front-runner for the job of president? Other governors wield their political clout and it is a local or state issue. It makes a lot of noise within the state, but it never makes it to national news as anything but filler before a commercial.

There is a delicious irony in the contrast between a governor that fires staffers for engaging in political payback that ultimately winds up hurting a lot of ordinary citizens, and a president that takes out his ire against the opposition party by shutting down open-air monuments and rewarding his minions with promotions for directing political payback against ordinary citizens trying to have a voice through nonprofit organizations.

Muckraking in politics is a given. It isn’t new and the simple fact of its being is certainly not newsworthy. The ability of the voters to distinguish between political theater and what America is going to look like from a political perspective after 2016 is the real story. Let’s hope that story has a good ending. 

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