By Sarah Siock
Former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman spoke about the importance of bipartisanship and the role the Supreme Court vacancy will play in the upcoming election at an event hosted by the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics on Sept. 24.
Whitman is a lifelong Republican who served as New Jersey’s 50th governor and later as the Environmental Protection Agency administrator under President George W. Bush. Now, she is leading a group of prominent Republicans and Independents who are working on behalf of Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden to oust President Donald Trump from office.
In August, Whitman joined various Republican women who voiced their support of Biden at the Democratic National Convention. Whitman discussed her decision to speak at the convention with students.
“We have gotten so partisan on everything, and the divide is so great, that I was never going to be a Trump supporter. And frankly, he has done nothing in these last 3 ½ years that have led me to change my mind,” she said.
Whitman went on to say that she finds Biden to be “a strong person with a center core that guides him.” She also applauded Biden’s choosing of California Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate. She said the choice showed that Biden would not be “pushed around” if he was in office and that he would pick people who he felt were best for the job to work alongside him.
A topic much of the event focused on was Whitman’s views on the new Supreme Court nominee. She spoke about the tradition and value of keeping a partisan balance in the court system.
“The thing that worries me is that, if they go ahead and appoint the Trump nominee before the election, and then the Democrats win the Senate, and perhaps the presidency, that they will try to pack the court,” Whitman said. “You want the best judges and you want ones that are clear in their opinions that have not been overridden. So it’s a little frustrating to see what’s happening now.”
Director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics Micah Rasmussen pointed out that every judge Whitman appointed to the state Supreme Court during her time in office was reconfirmed by subsequent governors.
“At a time when the nation is so polarized, it is especially noteworthy. Whitman’s reflections on what partisanship means to her ought to be thought-provoking on what it means to us, too,” said Rasmussen.
Whitman also described changes the Republican party has seen in recent years. Whitman defines herself as an “Eisenhower Republican” and said the party should stand for a central core of shared principles.
“I go back to the days when the party was something that respected individuals. We do not have a Republican party now. We stand for whatever Trump tells us to stand for and that is not a party,” said Whitman.
During the event, students had a chance to directly ask Whitman questions. Whitman touched on several topics that were sparked from these questions, including her experience as the first female governor of New Jersey and the growing need for politicians to address climate change.
Sophomore criminal justice major Daniella Jeannot found Whitman’s honest viewpoints to be refreshing in today’s political landscape.
“I do feel it’s important to have politicians like Gov. Whitman to show bipartisanism. I like how she didn’t have a filter, she said what she wanted to say without thinking twice. She’s really trying to get people to vote so our nation has a better leader,” said Jeannot.
Throughout the event, Whitman stressed the importance of voting in the upcoming election. She said more substantial voter turnout leads to greater bipartisanship in politics.
“Last time we had people saying, ‘I do not like my choices so I am staying home.’ That is what got us into this mess in the first place. The most important thing is that everybody gets out and votes in this election,” said Whitman.