Jersey Left Says They’re on the Offensive, But to What End?

By David Cruz

It was a who’s who of New Jersey’s left, joining forces on day 99 of the Trump administration to announce their resistance.

“Today is the 99th day,” proclaimed Analilia Majia of New Jersey Working Families, “and this is the how New Jersey responds to the first 100 days. We mount a legislative resistance.”

You get a sense of where this coalition sees itself and what role it says it expects to play going forward, but, given its knack for delivering pointed rhetoric to a crowd of the faithful, it would be easy to dismiss this as more chest thumping in the face of a mostly disliked president — you’ll remember Hillary Clinton won New Jersey with 55 percent of the vote — but one of the leaders of this coalition says it ain’t all talk.

“Let me get beyond the philosophy of resistance,” said Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg. “We might have to do things legislatively to make up for what might be coming out of Washington, the forerunners that we’re hearing about budgets. For instance if, in fact, the federal government, under Trump, does away with water testing at our beaches, well maybe New Jersey is going to have to fill in and maybe the New Jersey taxpayers are going to feel that because we have to keep our beaches and our recreation areas safe.”

Same with funding Planned Parenthood and transportation infrastructure and arts funding. Organizers say they will try to use their control of both legislative houses in New Jersey to continue to promote their progressive agenda, even if it means facing vetoes.

“We do not share nor accept some of the values that are being promulgated in Washington D.C.,” exclaimed Speaker Emeritus Sheila Oliver.

Republican Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll was initially a Ted Cruz man, but has, if not necessarily warmed to, at least come to terms with his party’s unique standard bearer.

“I would prefer a different kind of strategy, a different kind of public presentation,” he said, “but when I get down to the substance of it, I look at, for example the tax reform proposals. They’re excellent. I don’t think they’re bold enough but I think they’re excellent ideas.”

Carroll, who leans more Libertarian than traditional Jersey Republican, chuckles at the left’s reaction to the new president.

“It’s the unhinged hysteria that the left has brought to this presidency — just read the New York Times for unhinged hysteria — is amazing to me,” he said. “I mean I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t think he was a vulgar, base man, or he’s certainly played that part on television, but it seems it’s personal for them and not policy.”

Carroll says the 100 days constraint is artificial and silly, but he pointed to Trump’s successful Supreme Court selection and even the ill-fated ACA replacement bill defeat, as victories. But Trump has also succeeded at providing a potent rallying point for the left, who say they feel emboldened enough to turn Trump antipathy in New Jersey into a talking points with their state lawmakers.

“We’re going to call out New Jersey moderate Republicans and ask them to stand up against Washington Republicans who are doing harm to this state and we saw the impact of that with [Congressmen Leonard] Lance and [Frank] LoBiondo and Chris Smith on Trump/Ryan Care and we’re going to ask [Sen.] Tom Kean Jr. and [Assemblyman] Jon Bramnick and [Sen.] Jen Beck what’s their position in New Jersey on opposing a tax and budget and health care plan that is particularly disruptive to this state,” said Hetty Rosenstein, New Jersey state director of the Communications Workers of America.

In New Jersey, that might be a strategy. Federally, though, the lift may prove heavier. But, on the left, they say they have strength in numbers, and an unpopular governor they’re looking forward to replacing, insisting that the best defense is a good offense.