Is Chris Christie Mucking Up 2016 Already?

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Scott Olson/Getty Images

For many Republicans, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has been a popular potential candidate for the 2016 presidential campaign. They aren’t the only ones, as Christie has himself made some hints, though he says he hasn’t spent time thinking about running as of yet. “I am convinced that the next president of the United States is going to be a governor, and it needs to be,” said Christie according to NBC. “We have had the experiment of a legislator who’s never run anything getting on-the-job training in the White House. It has not been pretty,” he said, a hit at Obama and a nudge toward governor. If that doesn’t spell campaign aims, nothing does.

However, like 2012 Republican candidate Mitt Romney, the former Republican governor of Massachusetts, Christie may have alienated voters in lower socioeconomic tiers already. Both may be governors, but they’ve got another factor in common: Both made serious faux pas that revealed a lack of nuance and understanding regarding issues of poverty. For Romney, it was his “47%” commentary regarding poverty, welfare, and for many voters, carried an indirect and problematic racial message.

There are 47% … who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That’s that’s an entitlement, and the government should give it to them,” said Romney, according to Mother Jones. “These are people who pay no income tax, 47% of Americans pay no income tax … And so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to do is convince the 5% to 10% in the center that are independents” to vote for him, he said.

Following the talk, he was attacked for following the Republican stereotype of empathizing only with the wealthy and having little sympathy for the poor, and others argued that his commentary was racially targeted, with “47%” simply a euphemism for black Americans. Christie’s recent controversy isn’t as long-winded, but it’s nearly as damning politically when it comes to appealing to a wide portion of the United States population.

In a speech on Tuesday, Christie made an ultimately self-scathing critique of the Democrats’ signature minimum wage increase. “I got to tell you the truth, I’m tired of hearing about the minimum wage. I really am. I don’t think there’s a mother or father sitting around the kitchen table tonight in America saying, ‘You know, honey, if our son or daughter could just make a higher minimum wage, my God, all of our dreams would be realized,’” said Christie. Of course, the Senator, who according to the NY Daily News made some $700,000 dollars last year with his wife, fails to understand the importance of the minimum wage for so many families.

Christie’s understanding of the minimum wage, who it matters to, and why is so limited in scope it’s almost astounding. Christie could do with a lesson in societal breakdown, and the fact that there will always be individuals that have no other choice than to make the minimum wage. It’s not about whether their parents would rather Christie helps more kids afford college.

Though upping the minimum wage would also help with for students working to pay their own way through school (some people have to work their way to that dream on a minimum wage paycheck, Governor Christie). The fact of the matter is that some college graduates will still work minimum wage jobs after graduating, and some Americans are not born with the inherent advantages and general good luck that others have.

Some kids don’t have parents sitting around the kitchen table imagining their idea of success, and some are born into poverty and violence. Some of those kids will go on to be doctors and lawyers with the help of scholarships, but some of them may face adversity and struggles that position them in a situation to only make the minimum wage, and perhaps when they are no longer struggling to make rent, the horizons — and options of many Americans struggling to get by because they started the race thirty feet behind the starting line — can be expanded.

Still other Americans may not be sitting at the dinner table, because their working minimum wage jobs to put food on the table and set aside money for their own children’s educations, so that they can have options and dreams beyond minimum wage. Finally, there are those with disabilities for whom getting up and going to work every day, minimum wage or not, and paying their way, is as much a realization of dreams as being governor of say, New Jersey (perhaps more so if you take Bridgegate into account). Christie, with his comments, fails to take into account the whole range of circumstances, background, and definitions of dreams that define Americans.

Follow Anthea Mitchell on Twitter @AntheaWSCS

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