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NJ's Republican Party Must Change

by Bret Schundler

On Election Day, the Democrats actually came in second. The winner, by a wide margin, was the Totally Disgusted With Politics Party.

Voting data shows that the majority of state residents, already so contemptuous of New Jersey politics that they won’t affiliate with either party, refused even to vote for a perceived “lesser of two evils” this year. They just stayed home.

This gave the Democrats total control of the New Jersey Legislature, because as the Party of Government Out for Itself, they have a huge registration advantage amongst those who make their money from big government, and who vote year in and year out, no matter what.

This will also give solace to Jim McGreevey. He has long believed that, politically speaking, it doesn’t matter how much you lie to, or betray, the people. All that does matter is that you raise more campaign money than your opposition, so that at election time you can air more campaign commercials.

Accordingly, on the day after he was elected in 2001, he ditched his campaign promise to end the corrupt Pay to Play system in New Jersey (where politicians provide massive no-bid contracts to contributors who provide them with massive political contributions), and set himself to the task of raising as much such money as he possibly could. Indeed, he set a new standard in such corrupt money raising.

Subsequently, McGreevey and the Democrats also betrayed their campaign promises to address New Jersey’s property tax and car insurance crises, and to not raise state taxes. Yet still, on Election Day, they gained legislative seats.

Expect, therefore, Jim McGreevey and the Democrats to read this election as a vindication of their political strategy, and to change nothing about themselves in the years ahead. They will continue to ignore New Jersey’s property tax and insurance crises, and stick it to the people with abandon.

But I believe Jim McGreevey and the Democrats are mis-reading this election. In 2001, McGreevey defeated me partly because he was able to misrepresent my positive proposals. This year, the Democrats were helped by the fact that as a statewide party, Republicans emphasized no positive proposals. But Jim McGreevey and the Democrats aren’t fooling the people of New Jersey.

The people are totally disgusted with New Jersey’s state politics and with its politicians. They will continue to boycott elections, causing Republicans to continue to lose, as long as the people fail to see Republicans offering understandable, credible solutions to the spending, tax, and insurance crises making New Jersey unaffordable. But if Republicans unite behind credible solutions to these crises, the people will give us their votes.

I learned a lot from my defeat in 2001, and I believe my party received a wake up call on Tuesday that will cause it to change not only for the good of our candidates, but for the good of all New Jersey. Indeed, in my opinion a Republican Party committed to true reform is the people’s best hope for a government that actually serves them, and the people seeing this in the Republican Party is the Republican Party’s best hope for the future.

When average voters tune out, Democrats can still win. But Republicans can’t. We need to be, and we need voters to see us as, the Party that Fights for the People!

--Bret Schundler, the Republican nominee for Governor in 2001, is President of Empower the People, a state-wide citizens action group working to solve the property tax and school funding crisis in New Jersey.



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