Chris Christie, you may have heard, is thinking about running for president. People act as if having Christie in the race will be a head-exploding sensation.
Maybe. But it won’t be a surprise.
If Chris Christie doesn’t run, he’ll be defying a perfect storm of coalescing forces far heavier than he’ll ever be.
That act of defiance would rank among the great feats of willpower in human history. And in our day and age, that kind of thing just doesn’t happen.
If Christie runs, it’ll be less a sign of his personal greatness than proof positive that what we think is happening to America really is. That goes double if he wins.
Logic tells us that Christie should do a cannonball into this race. He embodies and validates three big national trends:
Character counts. When casting about for a leader, the experts tell us we care a lot about “the intangibles” — a mix of hard-to-define qualities that we’re used to discussing with words like “charisma,” “attitude,” “the x factor.”
Obama supposedly had lots of these things going for him in 2008. This time around, those vague terms fully fail to describe him. His unique character — perhaps shared only by the most pouting, aloof and self-entitled cat ever to let itself appear in a Fancy Feast commercial — is crystal clear to all.
The crashing disappointment accompanying Obama’s painful decline from intangible factor to tangible character reflects a broader and brewing American disgust with all things indirect, complex, dissembling and distant. It’s a disgust born of the exhaustion we feel as real life comes at us with undiminished force, and the helplessness we experience when it seems we can’t place our hopes in anything more visceral than Washington’s virtual value and absentee authority.
When it comes to character, Chris Christie makes Mitt Romney and Rick Perry look Obamaesque — both stuck waffling between micromanagerial policy and rhetoric with all the authentic spontaneity of a robocall with a teleprompter. The style of Christie’s frank speech is inseparable from its substance. That’s the mark of character, and that’s why he commands attention to a degree beyond that of all other Republican candidates.
Establishments bite. Pro tip: There’s more than one establishment, and they’ve all got credibility problems. Texas politics, about as fluid as the Alamo, has produced with Rick Perry a candidate as accustomed to winning by mastering a fixed system as Mitt Romney, whose eastern-corridor acumen has rigor and discipline going for it but not popularity.
Americans are up in the air. Their world is sideways at best, upside-down at worst. No establishment — not the GOP old guard, not the Bush-era conservatives and not the neo-moderates — has sold the American people on its stewardship.
The moment belongs to the candidate who can jump into the midst of a mess and fix it on the fly — not because they’ve been groomed to do turnarounds, or because they love winning and understand timing, but because that’s the world they’ve come of political age within. Perry’s governorship began on December 21, 2000, Romney’s on January 3, 2003. Christie took office on January 19, 2010. Politically, he is a man of our time. That matters.