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Xavier Rabinowitz writes from Jersey :
My heart goes out to Bret Schundler. Well, sort of. As a neglected Garden State conservative, I've watched the NJ GOP debase its principles in the name of 'moderate' (i.e., liberal) politics since time immemorial (granted, a short time for an early thirty-something like myself). Lately, a former Wall Street 'master of the universe' (i.e. bond trader) named Bret Schundler was a tepid cause for hope. But Schundler trailed his Democratic opponent-Kevin McGreevey-by a significant margin in the final polls, and was all but orphaned by the national GOP (the folly of el Presidente Jorge throwing out the first ball at the World Series whilst Bret is hung out to dry a few miles away is not lost on this voter).
Why did he lose? Not for lack of minority outreach in general, or Latino outreach in particular, that's for sure. In the Bergen Record, the race & ethnicity obsessed Latino special features columnist Miguel Perez (said with that impeccable Spanish enunciation that Jimmy Smits parodies on Saturday Night Live!) echoes a report by the Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey (?!) that endorsed neither Gubernatorial candidate. Among other things, Mr. Perez's report noted from the Alliance's non-endorsement:
On Latino representation, "while both candidates responded positively stating that they would make a commitment to our community to increase the number of Latinos in the state government, Mayor Schundler was more specific in detailing his plan of action towards this goal." -M. Perez, Bergen Record, October 31, 2001.
In spite of his effort to out-pander McGreevey and his landslide victories in Jersey City's 1993 and 1997 mayoral elections, Schundler just wasn't good enough for this Latino group.
Hey national GOP (and WSJ editorial page): are you listening?
After the loathsome McGreevey becomes Governor-elect, the NJ GOP machine will surely smother similarly conservative candidates in future primaries. Northeast conservatives (all 23 of you!) take note: these results bode ill for legislative (both state & federal) & gubernatorial elections in 2002. More troublesome, Schundler's defeat will likely increase the pressure for more aggressive (!!!!) ethnic bloc "outreaches."
Why the initial optimism for Mayor Schundler's gubernatorial prospects? In brief, he was an indisputable "right wing" WASP (amazing in such a diverse city polluted by Italian & Irish machine politics) credited with jump-starting the Jersey City economy and reducing crime (no comment). Jersey City, by in large a collection of wretched urban and industrial areas with pockets of livable yet expensive yuppie neighborhoods and high rise apartments, is often held out as a sort of neoconservative Valhalla.
It is also an area rife with Peter Brimelow's so-called ethnic 'rat's nests.' Similar to Paterson, NJ - the home of some of the 19 "9/11" terrorists, recall that many of the 1993 WTC terrorists called certain Arab sections of Jersey City home. Chances are, if there are Al-Qaeda sleeper agents still in this country, they are or will have called Jersey City home at some point in their lives. Many in the neocon press took note of Jersey City and its Mayor, and wishfully tried to fit the Schundler square peg of success into their Panglossian round hole of multicultural optimism.
An eternal pessimist, I venture to predict the implications of a Schundler defeat for both the NJ and national GOP. Of course, Schundler's 'extremist' views on abortion and gun control will be blamed. And this may very well be the case (sigh - seeing first-hand the apathy and cultural rot that surrounds me every waking minute of the day here in the Garden State & NYC).
But the failure of Schundler's compassionate conservatism and ethnic/minority outreach (e.g., support for vouchers, etc.) merits scrutiny. Failure in NJ portends a bleak GOP future in key swing states like Michigan, Florida and Pennsylvania for a long, long time to come. (While Michigan, PA and NJ went for Gore in 2000, all have significant GOP legislative & executive presence STILL, e.g., Ridge, Whitman, Engler).
The empirical data is rolling in: Brimelow/Rubenstein prediction whips WSJ/neoconservative multicultural naivete!
Causation of the Schundler failure will rest with many factors. For the record, let the failure of the GOP's Latino outreach serve notice to the rest of the country.
November 06, 2001