About the only conservatives excited about Chris Christie’s diverse sweep across the board on Tuesday are Latinos and institutional Republicans yearning for some sign that the GOP will finally appeal to a broader electorate. This would be in contrast to the current anti-immigrant Southern Strategy approach that has the Party spiraling into national irrelevance.
One wonders how a Republican Governor who signed his state up with Obamacare and supports a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants is going to traverse a primary in which the only mobilizing forces the GOP has been able to successfully muster over the last five years has been it’s red scare obsession with the Affordable Care Act and it’s Know-Nothing contempt of immigrants.
Yet, something has to break the pattern of addiction the GOP has on attacking this mirage of anti-Americanism that has the growing population of minorities running into the laps of the Democrats. Perhaps Chris Christie has the character and the personality to confront the Ted Cruz wing of the Republican Party, which has been slowly but surely making its home in the center of the Republican tent over the last two decades under different management.
You can almost feel the exasperated sense of hope felt by Republicans who are still in the business of winning national elections when Chris Christie campaigned with Governor Susana Martinez of New Mexico at his side. With the Presidential Election still far away, Senator Orin Hatch of Utah was quick to set into the minds of the country the appeal of a Christie-Martinez ticket.
And while Senator Hatch is no squishy moderate, his State has managed to be at the forefront of a balanced approach to social issues, particularly through the weight of the Mormon Church. Utah is among the first to approve driver licenses for undocumented immigrants, and the Mormon Church issued the Utah Compact, appealing to legislators to come up with a humane approach to immigration enforcement. While the Mormon Church remains a hotbed of anti-gay marriage activity, it also recently backed a Salt Lake City ordinance banning employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
But after the government shutdown, which left the Republican leadership cowering before the Tea Party faction of the GOP which doused itself with gasoline and threatened to set itself on fire, someone like Christie may be the only one with the braggadocio to strike his own match, toss it onto them, and then get back to the business of governing.
As Governor Christie says, “don’t be stupid”; and that seems to be the very approach that the Republican Party needs right about now. With Tea Party candidates in Alabama telling gay folks to “go back to California” and others in Texas blaming global warming on abortion, stupidity has been running rampant throughout the party.
With that level of absurdity becoming standard practice in the GOP, what the party needs is a fight. And Latinos have been yearning for someone willing to stand up to the national wave of bullying by the likes of Steve King, Louie Gohmert, and Ted Cruz. By the looks of it, Chris Christie has what it takes to take them all on at once, and if he does, it may be the beginning of the end of the old Republican Party.
Stephen A. Nuño, Ph.D., NBC Latino contributor and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Politics and International Affairs at Northern Arizona University. He is currently writing a book on Republican outreach into the Latino Community.