Opinion: Chris Christie enters pantheon of patriots

photo by: Contributed

Froma Harrop

Chris Christie has done himself a service, done his Republican Party a service and, most importantly, done his nation a service.

He convincingly expressed great remorse for having endorsed Donald Trump in 2016. Then he entered the 2024 nomination race with the goal of stopping a repeat disaster. That was the personal part.

Christie gave his party a measure of self-respect by going after Trump as a threat to America when most of the other Republican candidates wouldn’t even point out his criminality. That was the high point of Christie’s emotional speech on suspending his campaign: When asked whether they would vote for Trump if he were a convicted felon, Christie said in a tone of disbelief, every other candidate in an earlier Republican debate raised a hand.

Including Nikki Haley. That should have been the lowest bar to clear.

But with Haley closing in on Trump in New Hampshire primary polls, Christie knows full well that by leaving the race he would enhance her chances of beating Trump. Or at least melt his aura of invincibility.

At the same time, Christie did not officially endorse Haley. She will obviously have to do more. She will have to start airing more unvarnished truths about Trump. It’s not enough to argue that she has stronger poll numbers against Joe Biden in a national election. That may be true, but it’s a weak retort, as is her age argument. (Haley has at least broken with some competitors by saying that the 2020 election was not stolen.)

Trump obviously sees Haley gaining and so he is dusting off his greatest hits of vulgarity. He has already resurrected “birther” nonsense by posting an item claiming that Haley was not a U.S. citizen because her Indian parents weren’t citizens at the time of her birth. That should be enough to reach for the brass knuckles. After all, she is running against an authoritarian who is clearly losing his marbles.

Christie has been at politics for a long time. One would think that as a Republican-elected governor in the Democratic state of New Jersey, Christie would be something of a party hero. But he could not avoid collisions with the growing Hatfield-McCoy mindset of his party.

In 2012, when President Barack Obama visited the Jersey shore after the devastation of Superstorm Sandy, Christie embraced him. That sweet photo drew condemnations from brutes on the right.

Christie may join Rep. Jim Clyburn as a mover of the electoral tides. A South Carolina Democrat and civil rights icon, Clyburn in 2020 steered the Democratic Party to the one candidate who could smite Trump. At the time, Democrats in the early caucus and primary states were embracing their glamorous lefties, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Biden was all but dismissed by the political media.

Clyburn knew that the Southern primaries, with their heavy representation of Black voters, could change the course of the election. But the voters needed the signal from Clyburn to activate the wave. Clyburn delivered, and from then on Biden became the Democratic frontrunner. And he went on to defeat Trump.

It’s said that Christie left the race because he could no longer see a path to victory. That’s not quite right.

As a moderate Republican, Christie never had a path to victory, and he knew it. His role was to be the Republican who could call out Trump publicly and loudly on the debate stage when none of the others would.

But Christie is not going to disappear. Combative and colorful, he will remain a regular on the news shows. And there’s a long term: For his defense of the democracy, Christie will enter the pantheon of American patriots..

• Froma Harrop is a syndicated columnist with Creators.


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