New Jersey governor election: a wake-up call for Democrats

By Anthony Corbi

Approximately 22 hours after the polls closed for the governor’s election in the state of New Jersey on Nov. 2, the Associated Press projected that Governor Phil Murphy had won the re-election. Very few Democrats were genuinely and completely happy.

The previous day, Democrats had been handed a critical loss in the Virginia gubernatorial election, which saw Democrat Terry McAuliffe lose to Glenn Youngkin, a Republican who managed to distance himself from the politics of the Trump administration while maintaining the support of the state and nationwide parties. Additionally, a measure to reconstruct the police force in the city of Minneapolis and institute a “public safety force” in its place failed by a margin of 56%-44%, which progressive Democrats vehemently supported.

While it did not come as much of a shock that Democrats faced massive backlash in elections across the United States, almost everyone within the party believed that the New Jersey Gubernatorial election would present favorable results for the party. And yet, as New Jerseyans woke up and left for work on the morning of Nov. 3, the fate of the political leadership in our state had yet to be decided.

Many in the media have said that the elections this year were a wake-up call for the Democratic party. As Vice President of Rider College Democrats, I would be inclined to agree. Political pundits have said that the national party’s handling of COVID-19 and the drama on the passing of an infrastructure bill that a majority of the nation supports have lowered the party’s approval rating and set it up for a massive blow at the midterms next year. 

I would go even further as to say that the national leadership has only minimally shown more competence than the Trump administration, and the independents who believe that the Trump administration was more competent would be difficult to argue against. We didn’t expect the Biden administration to completely eliminate COVID-19, but we also didn’t expect that it would still be a threat. We expected the infrastructure package would have been passed in August at the latest, but it is only now that the package is being passed.

The administration can make excuses for why it has had difficulty getting things done in its first year (Joe Manchin, the filibuster, etc.). But at the end of the day, a majority of the population doesn’t care about the issues facing Congress: they want results. In essence, it’s not about how something gets done, it’s the fact that nothing is getting done. And the fact that the national Democratic party has been dealing with this infighting since day one, which has been extensively covered by the media, shows a fatal weakness in the structure of the party. Quite frankly, as a Democrat, it is frustrating to watch.

Even more frustrating to watch was the lack of visibility from the Murphy campaign in the days, weeks and months leading up to the election last week. While the campaign did have an extensive list of canvassing opportunities, Murphy trailed Ciattarelli in the advertising market by a substantial margin, in my eyes. 

Two weeks before election day, “Jack 4 NJ” signs lined the street in the development outside my house in Burlington County, and advertisements for his campaign blared on my TV every few commercial breaks. Meanwhile, I recall only seeing a couple of TV advertisements from the Murphy campaign and only saw one “Murphy/Oliver” sign posted in my neighbor’s front yard, but not anywhere with high amounts of traffic. Between the lack of advertising and the comments on social media, I was not surprised to see that the election results were this close, even though the polls showed Murphy with a nine-point lead less than a week before the election (but when was the last time those were right, either?).

To state that this year was a wake-up call for Democrats is a massive understatement. If the national party can’t get its act together, pass their infrastructure bill, eliminate COVID-19 as a problem (no matter what variant is going around), and show some sense of order among all of its party members – moderate and progressive – then the party is going to get brutally slammed at the midterms next year, maybe to the level it did in 2010. 

No amount of canvassing or postcard writing (as we promoted and hosted, respectively, within the Rider Democrats organization this past year) will be able to save the party from massive losses in the House and Senate if it cannot save itself.

Anthony Corbi, 

junior sports media major, 

vice president of Rider College Democrats

Originally printed in the 11/17/21 issue.

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