On the heels of my post last week when I extolled the leadership of New Jersey's conservative Republican Governor Chris Christie, comes a poll that shows his job approval has skyrocketed the more he confronts and takes on the opposition to reform. A new Rasmussen survey shows the governor at a whopping 57 percent approval rating (NBC40.net)! This astonishing number comes as he is cutting state employees, their benefits and their pensions, among many other sacred cows. In August, he was at 51 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll (see The State Column blog). Either way, in a climate where establishment politicians are getting their heads handed to them, the numbers are more than impressive. It's more than a fascination or amusement with Mr. Christie's sharp tongue and undiplomatic public sarcasm (though he does score style points for that, I admit).
The lesson is that trying to be Mr. or Ms. Popularity by appealing to all sides, by playing the bland policy game, by not taking on bold initiatives, offering lukewarm reforms, and not doing what you are going to do (reduce government and tax rates, for example) pleases no one. Liberals always will think conservatives are mean and hateful, and the conservatives who elected Mr. or Ms. Popularity will abandon him or her (hello George W. Bush) for living up to his or her word.
So, it pays to have a definitive point of view, a bold agenda and a take no prisoners approach to getting it done. Better to have a dedicated following willing to give their all, than to attempt to appease all sides, water down your plan, and still have the sides aiming at each other because while they'll accept the bone thrown to them, they don't like the bone thrown to the other side. It's ironic, but you can't get popular by pleasing everyone. To paraphrase the general in one of the many great scenes in Patton:
We're fighting a war, darn it. We have to offend someone!
This is why Governor Christie is reaping a following, not only in New Jersey, but around the country. He's willing to take his policies forward not caring who complains or takes offense. He obliterates the idea that conservative values and philosophy can win and work only in certain states or regions, or that candidates must be tailored to certain electorates. What it really shows is that conservatism, when its time-tested core of life, liberty and property are clearly articulated and fearlessly fight for, strikes the very core of the yearning most people innately have for freedom from a nanny state and their antipathy for a leviathan that thinks it can and must do everything (while driving us into insolvency) — and that they will justly reward those who do so.