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Morning Jay: Christie Should Follow Woodrow Wilson—And Run

6:00 AM, Oct 3, 2011 • By JAY COST
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3. A broken opposition. By the time Wilson was elected to the governorship of New Jersey in 1910, the Republicans had been in control of Congress for 16 years. That’s a long time to be in power – and it showed, as the GOP coalition started to behave dysfunctionally. Worse, the aloof President Taft was not the kind of hands-on manager that TR had been, and the result was disastrous. The GOP had campaigned in 1908, ”unequivocally for a revision of the tariff,” and Taft had long been favor of reducing the schedules. In 1909, the House passed a tariff reduction bill, but after it got through the Senate, the finished product actually resulted in a net tariff hike. The reason? The special interests of the age basically owned the upper chamber, and had the bill redrafted to their liking. In response to the widespread public outcry, Senate Republican leader Nelson Aldrich, who doubled as the boss of Rhode Island, admitted that the 1908 platform had called for revisions, but haughtily asked, “Where did we ever make the statement we would revise the tariff downward?”

Obamacare reminds me more than a little bit of the “Payne-Aldrich" tariff bill; both are evidence that the party in power is broken. Either unwilling or unable to do the public’s bidding, the Republicans of 1909-1911 and the Democrats of today are instead in hock to special interests. And much like Taft, President Obama has been unwilling or unable to manage his unwieldy congressional allies. Payne-Aldrich was terrible for the country writ large, but it created a fantastic opportunity for Wilson and the opposing Democrats in 1912. Christie and the GOP now have a similar opening some 100 years later.

Again, running for president is a distinctly personal choice. You are either willing to make the sacrifices for the job, or you are not. If Chris Christie is capable of committing the next decade to the presidency, he should run. Like Woodrow Wilson before him, this is a perfect moment that probably will never come again. 

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