We have a new governor in the state of New Jersey, and as usual, the Suburban Mom seems to have her finger right on the pulse of the electorate.
“Wes Chalker didn’t know who he would vote for until he walked into the voting booth” is how reporter Ted Sherman began his story in Tuesday’s Star-Ledger. Replace Wes Chalker’s name with mine and you get the picture, not just of my mood on Election Day 2009, but as it turns out, many of my fellow state citizens.
Frankly, I was so unenthusiastic about my gubernatorial choices Tuesday that I contemplated sitting out this election. It’s not the first time I’ve considered doing so, but as always, my civic conscience wouldn’t let me cop out. I don’t ever expect to run for public office, but still, I wouldn’t want an apathetic voting record to turn around and bite me you know where. I can just imagine those headlines: “U.S. Senate candidate Euna Kwon Brossman, formerly known as the Suburban Mom, has a perfect record of not voting in five straight elections due to general disgruntlement with the choices.”
Aside from the potential embarrassment, when I took the oath of citizenship at the age of 18 as a naturalized U.S. citizen, I did vow to uphold my civic duties, and I consider voting one of our most important responsibilities. Last but not least, I always want to set an example for my own children, which is why once again, Will was with me when we went to cast our ballots.
“Okay, Will,” I remarked, at the door. “I’m wondering if we should go with the devil we know or the devil we don’t.” Needless to say, my 10-year-old was somewhat bewildered. Devils were not discussed in his fifth-grade social studies class when it came to the lesson on elections.
Of course, the incumbent, Jon Corzine, was the known quantity. In his four years as governor, he did nothing to fulfill his promise of rolling back taxes, and he fell short of many of his professed goals to improve the economy, clean up corruption, and lift general morale. It wasn’t his fault that the economy was collapsing around him, and even the reality of his millions and the reflected glory of support from President Obama weren’t enough to help him beat back his Republican challenger.
The unknown quantity is, of course, our new governor, Chris Christie, and I am not sure that I know exactly what he stands for. I’m not alone in this, however, as polls show that most New Jersey residents who voted for him did so not because they were happy with him, but because they were unhappy with Corzine.
“We can go for change, or we can go for the status quo, Will,” I explained, as we walked into the Wicoff School gym. “What does status quo mean?” he wanted to know. “It means everything stays as it is, it means four more years of the same thing, higher taxes, broken promises, general malaise,” I told him, and as I spoke those words, I finally knew how we were going to be voting.
“Expressing Little Enthusiasm for Either N.J. Gubernatorial Candidate, Voters Elect for Change”, read the headline on Sherman’s Star-Ledger story. Again, it turns out, I am running right along with the crowd.
I wish Chris Christie well. I hope he can rally the goodwill from his victory and turn the economic picture around for our state. I also think he should take a lesson from history, specifically, from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his New Deal programs that are credited with helping to pull the United States out of the Great Depression.
Here’s something I don’t understand about the current unemployment numbers. I cannot comprehend how so many people can be out of work when there is so much work that needs to be done. For example, our infrastructure is a mess. Look at California and the Bay Bridge linking San Francisco to the East Bay that was out of commission for nearly a week. It’s frightening to think about all of the crumbling roads and bridges across the country, and especially here in New Jersey.
One of the agencies created by the New Deal, and its largest, was the Works Progress Administration, or WPA. From 1935 to 1943, the WPA provided almost eight million jobs for unemployed Americans. These workers built roads, bridges, and schools; they started and operated many large projects involving literacy, arts, and media. They organized programs to feed hungry children and provide clothing and housing to those in need.
In 2009 we have hungry children. We have homeless people. Let’s kill two birds with one stone. Create more programs to feed and house the hungry and homeless, and create jobs by employing people to run those programs.
You know all those unemployed young people you’ve been hearing about? Let’s put them to work helping older people learn how to use computers and navigate technology. Let’s tap into their youthful energy, creativity, and idealism to make the world greener and to save the children in Darfur and wildlife at the same time.
As for the older people who are out of work? Engage them as teachers and mentors to young people to show them how to do things the “old-fashioned” way, which is sometimes the best way, especially when it comes to things like manners and attention to detail.
The people of New Jersey have spoken. We have new leadership at the top, but it will also take a lot of will and discipline at all rungs of the ladder. The lessons of history are powerful and effective. Let’s hope that those in power have studied them and use them to turn this state and country around.
Will always likes to be on the winning team, and on the day after Election Day, it turns out we are. But unless Chris Christie can take his voter mandate and turn it into more jobs, lower taxes, and a brighter future for everyone in this state, the victory will be a hollow one.