by Rosemarie Jackowski
For many decades, New Jersey has been known for its culture of mobsters, hooligans, and political dirty tricks. When I was a kid, anytime the topic of New Jersey was discussed, my Dad would smile and say, “Yep, that’s where all the crooks are.” He always had a twinkle in his eye when he said that. Naturally, it made me want to move to New Jersey as soon as I was old enough. New Jersey sounded really cool, like a land of fun and excitement especially while growing up in the coal mine region of Pennsylvania.
Eventually, I did reach that magic age when I could leave home. It took a roundabout route and several years, but the day came when I moved to New Jersey. I searched for the crooks and hoodlums, but didn’t find many — and this was during the wild 60s. South Jersey was great. There were interesting ‘activities’ on the Jersey shore, but not any real crooks in my circle of friends … well, maybe one or two shady characters. I heard stories about when Jack Nicholson lived in the same town. He must have been quite a hit at the high school prom years before. I met fishermen, teachers, garage mechanics but no members of the Mafia. No real big-time crooks.
Now many years later, I live in beautiful, mythical Vermont. I listen to the news reports of Governor Christie and the traffic jam. My initial reaction was: so what. Political tricks happen all the time — what’s all the hype about? After sleeping on the topic overnight, my reaction is the same, only more so today.
Where I live, a disabled vet has recently been the victim of assault by an elected public official. The threat was accidently caught on a live microphone and recorded on video. There is no question of proof. It seems to me that this is serious and should result in something — anything — but this is Vermont. No legal action. No massive public outcry. The public official will probably be re-elected during the next election.
The Vermont governor was recently the subject of an investigation for taking advantage of a vulnerable adult in a questionable real estate deal. Not much public outcry there. He will be re-elected, no doubt. No-bid $200 per hour contracts have been awarded to political buddies. Almost no one noticed. More than 300 cases of abuse of the elderly/disabled have been reported to the state. No real action taken. Abuse continues.
The entire state, from the Massachusetts border to the Canadian line, is famous for cronyism, or the “ol’ boys’ network” as it is called here. By comparison, New Jersey seems rather tame and lawful.
Back to Gov. Christie and the traffic jam. How could that happen? Political tricks are part of the game. They happen all the time.
Just one personal anecdote: During the last election cycle, I was the Socialist candidate for Vermont Attorney General. One day during campaign season, as I happened to be driving past the Democratic campaign headquarters, I noticed something was different. The very large, professionally manufactured campaign sign for the Democratic candidate for Attorney General was missing from the front window. In its spot some unknown person had placed a homemade campaign sign supporting me. I burst out laughing and wondered who could have done that and why. I had not even visited the Democratic campaign headquarters. In addition, I am known to be anti-Democrat/anti-Republican.
When I stopped laughing, I pulled into a parking place and went into the headquarters. I said just one word, while laughing again. I asked, “Why?” It seems that one of the young campaign workers had become impressed with my platform and took it upon himself to campaign for me, even while on duty at the Democrat’s main site. I had never met this campaign worker before, but we talked. He told me that he had gotten chewed out by the big boss for removing the official sign and replacing it with the one he made for the opposition candidate – who was a Socialist no less!
The young campaign worker had to find a way of dealing with the boss issue. He was very creative. He figured out the schedule of the boss. When the boss was expected to visit, the young worker would simply switch the sign back to the official one. The campaign worker had nothing to gain. His actions could have cost him his job. But he continued to do what he believed to be the right thing. His so-called conspiracy lasted all through the campaign season, right up to Election Day.
The moral of the story is that sometimes political “dirty tricks” happen without the knowledge or consent of those up the chain of command. Maybe, just maybe, Gov. Christie did not have any knowledge of the traffic jam. This is not meant to support Christie … heaven knows I would never support any Republican or Democrat.
Jackowski is a peace activist and author of BANNED IN VERMONT. She has lived in Hoboken, Jamesburg, Manasquan, Lavallette, Seaside Park, Ocean City, Cape May County and too many other locations in New Jersey to remember. She now lives in Vermont.