Life outside the Beltway has its moments — such as Tuesday night, when Mike Castle and Christine O’Donnell attended the same political event in Wilmington, Delaware (yes, they were seated safely apart). Although the evening lacked fireworks from that pair, it was still worthwhile. Observing the two men on the dais, former Delaware Governor Pete du Pont (the event organizer) and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, I realized that, despite their superficial differences, du Pont and Christie are kindred spirits.
Christie, who du Pont honored with an award, is the next best thing to a favorite son in Delaware. He and his wife are graduates of the University of Delaware and are longtime fixtures at its football games. Moreover, Pete du Pont was the governor when Christie was a Blue Hen undergraduate, and it’s clear that du Pont was an inspiration for him. For example, du Pont was the first governor in Delaware’s history to cut taxes. He also balanced the budget — setting a standard for Christie decades later.
Speaking as a former governor, du Pont praised Christie as a “real leader” and admired how he has “taken the long view” on issues and “sounded the alarm” on what higher taxes and bigger government were doing to New Jersey. The senior du Pont seemed envious of the younger man’s ability to use the line-item veto in his battles with the New Jersey legislature, saying it was a “very effective thing” for Christie to scratch out a line of spending and simply end the matter by putting his initials next to it.
Christie and du Pont make an unlikely duo. One is a tall, slim, elder statesman and scion of a large and powerful old family with French roots who speaks in measured tones and likely dines on egg-white omelets. The other is unquestionably a big Jersey guy, of Irish and Sicilian descent, who employs a certain feisty style of expression and probably hankers for tomato pie (that’s pizza to you non-Jerseyites). But despite their palpable differences, they are united by a desire for limited government and expanded freedoms.
As election season approaches and conservatives wrestle with how they will confront the current liberal agenda, they would do well to consider how two men with vastly varying backgrounds and personal styles could end up with the same goals. I suspect it’s due to their shared core principles — that government should keep taxes low, foster opportunities for all and, ultimately, make their states better places to live and work.
These are ideas that ought to resonate whether you lunch at the country club or grab a bite at the diner — and du Pont and Christie demonstrate that they do.
Joanne Butler is a senior economics fellow at the Caesar Rodney Institute of Delaware. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.