Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Chris Christie's bullying style is inuring Americans to ugly discourse

-- by Dave

Digby caught this bit of bizarre right-wing behavior from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie this weekend:

Keith Chaudruc, of Madison, got the final question of the night.

The Livingston school district elementary teacher launched into a list of complaints about drops in municipal aid, increasing NJ Transit fares and tax cuts for those making more than $1 million.

His question: How could Christie sign off on a tax cut for the most wealthy, ignoring the regressive nature of the sales tax, while those at the bottom were getting squeezed with increases like the transit fares?

The two adversaries went back and forth for a few minutes, until Chaudruc, a Republican, interrupted the governor.

"You want to come up here?" Christie shouted. "You come up here ... Let’s have a conversation.."

Chaudruc, who stands 5’6" and weighs about 160 pounds, backed away until the governor insisted "bring him up here," and a state trooper escorted him to the stage.

Christie, a few inches taller and several pounds heavier, loomed over Chaudruc as he launched into a tirade.

"Your wonderful increase in taxes would have killed jobs in this state," Christie said pointing his index finger at Chaudruc. "You and I have different ideas of what being a Republican is all about because I’m not going to raise taxes."

Before he could get another word in, Chaudruc was ushered off the stage and out of the room by a trooper.

It looks like the schtick is wearing thin in New Jersey, at least:

By bullying a citizen, hogging the microphone and condescendingly dismissing him, Christie was the rude one. But it’s nothing new.

Christie has turned state politics into one never-ending yo’ mama joke. It doesn’t matter who you are — school superintendent, teacher, student, U.S. senator, state Assembly leader, former education commissioner or just a regular guy trying to have a conversation: If you disagree with him, Christie will try to humiliate you publicly.

Some find Christie entertaining, but his combativeness is counterproductive and breeds the kind of hate speech that plaques the nation.

However, as Alex Pareene at Salon observes:

But some people find this totally delightful, because Chris Christie is basically an amusing comic television show character, like Charlie Sheen or Pat Buchanan. Whether it helps Christie politically depends on whether New Jersey residents find it funny or get bored with it. But Christie will continue doing it, because it's a major part of his "brand."

In lieu of class solidarity, which is a privilege only afforded to the wealthy these days, American politics are mostly about tribal self-identification. Most Republicans get this, and that's why being a shouty asshole doesn't hurt Christie. Democrats -- with a couple of exceptions, like Anthony Weiner -- are not so good at this, which is why MSNBC's liberal hosts whine about how Obama needs to "get tough" all the time without ever explaining how that would help him achieve policy goals and not just make them feel like they're backing a winner.

Like Digby, I find his bullying behavior clearly fascistic -- this is how real fascists, the kind you get in Hayden Lake and at Joe Arpaio rallies, behave. I guess Americans are getting accustomed to that and a lot more approve of it. And that may be the scariest aspect of Chris Christie.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

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