Earlier this week Chris Christie made the decision to withdraw his opposition to same-sex marriage in New Jersey, eliciting two different responses from conservative circles.
The far right seems to prefer that Christie had taken the martyr route and showed the willingness to die politically, if he must, rather than making concessions. On the other hand, moderates seem to think of this as a purely pragmatic move for a 2016 presidential campaign.
These viewpoints are not mutually exclusive, however.
“Chief Justice Rabner left no ambiguity about the unanimous court’s view on the ultimate decision in this matter when he wrote, same-sex couples who cannot marry are not treated equally under the law today,” the statement from Christie’s aides read.
This indicates that, surely, Christie is being pragmatic at the moment. He recognizes the political landscape of New Jersey for what it is, and understands what he can and cannot accomplish. It would not be prudent to continue the stand. He has everything to lose and practically nothing to gain. The fact is, for New Jersey, Christie is as about as conservative as possible.
It appears instead that he’s engaging in damage control, attempting to avoid the consequences of negative public perception like the kind that swirled around the GOP in the wake of the government shutdown. Instead of causing a scene, he’s decided to play things close the vest. Still, it is possible, though unlikely, that Christie would be willing to play the role of a martyr; regardless, now isn’t the time. An attorney himself, he knows that he simply doesn’t have the leverage where it matters: the courts.
But nor does his silence necessarily mean assent or cowardice on the issue.
It’s entirely within the realm of possibility that Christie is playing his conservatism, well, conservatively. He knows, just as well as you or I do, that gay marriage is the hot-button issue in America today and that taking a strong stance here and now could adversely affect his perceived electability in the primaries and beyond.
So stay tuned on the Christie front. Just as he stated, “Now is not my time,” when asked about a campaign for the presidency in 2011, neither is this his time.
In the meantime, he’ll remain stronger than the storm of his own camp’s varying opinion.