Actual winds as well as political winds – not to mention snow – made for a solemn mood as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was sworn in for a second term. But the Republican presidential contender sounded themes of hope, unity, decisiveness and Jersey resilience in his 18-minute inaugural address marking the opening of his second term.
Politicians and pundits who smell blood in the water quickly made much of Christie’s refusal to reference the widening probes of his “bridge scandal.” But they were slow to notice that the governor made a brief but attractive case for smaller government, lower taxes, education reform and greater involvement by individuals and the institutions of civil society.
“For those who prefer economic growth and opportunity to government redistribution and higher taxes,” Christie said, “I say this: Come to New Jersey. You will be welcome here.”
Christie made his characteristic calls for shared sacrifice, strength in diversity and countering “the Washington attitude.” He also attempted to appeal to limited-government, free-market conservatives:
“I do not believe that New Jerseyans want a bigger, more expensive government that penalizes success and then gives the pittance left to a few in the name of income equity. What New Jerseyans want is an unfettered opportunity to succeed in the way they define success. They want an equal chance at the starting; not a government guaranteed result.
“Why? Because through hard work, and being rewarded for hard work, they know they are part of their own success.
“We should make sure that government pursues policies that believe in the effort, talent and optimism of New Jerseyans, not in the power of almighty government to fix any problem, real or imagined.
“Let’s be different than our neighbors. Let’s put more money in the pockets of our middle class by not taking it out of their pockets in the first place.”
Soon after Christie appealed for individuals, not the bureaucracy, to cheer on and support the aspirations of their neighbors:
“We have to be willing to play outside the red and blue boxes the media and pundits put us in; we have to be willing to reach out to others who look or speak differently than us; we have to be willing to personally reach out a helping hand to a neighbor suffering from drug addiction, depression or the dignity stripping loss of a job. …
“For the fact is that every one of God’s creations has value. Every person, no matter what challenge they are facing, must believe that they have inside of them all of the God-given ability needed to be happy. They will not believe that if all they hear is that life is unfair and that only government can fix that unfairness.”
For all his self-styled bluntness, Christie, who is pro-life, made only an oblique reference to abortion toward the end of his speech, delivered on the day before the March for Life in Washington, D.C.:
“No matter what adult we have to offend, no matter where you came from, no matter what sacred cow we must slay, no matter how much we have to change the conventional thinking, we will not stand for the achievement gap which exists between our best and least educated children.
“We will end the failed war on drugs that believes that incarceration is the cure of every ill caused by drug abuse. We will make drug treatment available to as many of our non-violent offenders as we can and we will partner with our citizens to create a society that understands that every life has value and no life is disposable.”
Despite the red meat meant for them, conservatives suspicious of Christie no doubt noticed his references to the importance of compromise in politics. At one point, Christie seemed to contradict himself by asserting that as governor he has “to be willing to stand hard when principles are being violated” but also “willing to compromise to find common ground with all of our people.”
This story was produced by The Foundry’s news team. Nothing here should be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of The Heritage Foundation.