“We need to renounce the conspiracy theorists and the truth deniers. The ones who know better and the ones who are just plain nuts,” Christie said in a speech at the Ronald Reagan presidential library on Thursday. “We need to give our supporters facts that will help them put all those fantasies to rest.”
This is Christie purposely trying get some distance from Donald Trump. He may not have mentioned the former president in the speech but the entire address was aimed at Christie trying to remake himself as something more than just a Trump lackey.
It won’t work.
What Christie wants to do is memory-hole the last five years and reclaim the truth-teller vibe he had going on in the early part of this decade. The problem is we’ve just all seen too much to go back to that moment when Christie was, arguably, the most promising potential national candidate within the GOP. When he threw in with Trump, that old Chris Christie, who had successfully positioned himself as the heir to the John McCain wing of the GOP, disappeared.
And, even if that version of Chris Christie hadn’t vanished, the part of the party represented by politicians like McCain did.
At this point — post-Trump-but-not-totally — in the party, there are, roughly, three wings of the GOP:
1. Trump: This includes the former president as well as his eldest son Donald Trump Jr.. Both are considered potential candidates in 2024.
2. Trumpism without Trump: This group wants to take the populism and nationalism represented by Trump and just subtract, well, Trump. It includes Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley and Arkansas Sen. Tom Cottton.
3. Anti-Trumpers: These are the people who never went down the Trump path. How critical they were of him depends on the person but, generally speaking, it’s been clear for the last five years or so that they aren’t going to give up total control of the party to the Trump forces. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan fits into this category. As does (mostly) Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse.
Christie isn’t in ANY of these camps. His speech on Thursday night makes clear that he doesn’t fit into categories 1 and 2 above. And while he’d like to — probably — be in category 3, the past five years makes that impossible.
What is Christie? A man without a political country. And those people aren’t relevant in our politics.