In the US, 'tea party' defeats bring rays of hope

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 November, 2013, 4:36am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 November, 2013, 4:36am

You may not know where Trenton is, but the news from the capital of the state of New Jersey last week was the best to come out of America for some time. An electoral comeback shows moderate Republican Party members are far from a spent force. In fact, one of them could become the next occupant of the White House, having become an early favourite to win his party's presidential nomination. This is the result of pragmatic centrist Chris Christie's thumping re-election as governor and generally disappointing poll results for the conservative "tea party" wing of the Republican Party. Voters in New Jersey, Virginia, New York, Alabama, Detroit and elsewhere hinted at a loss of patience with conservative lawmakers who tried to advance ideological agendas by precipitating the recent US budget crisis and threatening not to lift the national debt ceiling, necessary for the US to pay its debts. A world that depends on the US dollar as a reserve currency will endorse that sentiment.

Christie, 51, won 60 per cent of the vote, including majorities among the normally Democrat strongholds of women, blacks and hispanics. In nearby Virginia, a Democrat defeated a tea- party republican for the governorship, despite the unpopularity there of President Barack Obama's health care reforms.

Christie is not unknown outside the US, after Hurricane Sandy devastated his state last year. He infuriated Republican hardliners by inspecting the damage alongside Obama, when the Democratic president was campaigning for re-election. Then he slammed conservative lawmakers for not fast-tracking relief for hurricane victims. He has also won no friends among them by keeping his opposition to abortion largely to himself and not pressing a legal challenge to same-sex marriage after a judge allowed the first weddings to go ahead.

Tuesday was a night to remember for besieged Republican moderates. Hopefully, for the sake of American democracy, it marks a return to pragmatism and tolerance that appeals to the middle ground in an increasingly multicultural society.