In a speech tonight at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, former Gov. Chris Christie delivered a strong rebuke of former President Donald Trump and the conspiracy theories that have abounded since the 2020 election, though Christie was careful never to name Trump directly.
Before a crowd of Republican activists and Reagan acolytes, Christie argued that “our party itself is in peril,” and that it will continue to be as long as it remains under the thrall of demagogues, Q-Anon believers, and white supremacists.
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“As Republicans, we need to free ourselves from the quicksand of endless grievances,” Christie said. “We need to face the realities of the 2020 election and learn, not hide from them… We need to renounce the conspiracy theorists and the truth deniers, the ones who know better and the ones who are just plain nuts.”
“If the requirement in today’s politics for getting your support is to say a bunch of things that aren’t true, no thank you,” he continued. “If it requires bending to the will of any one person, rather than advocating ideas for the good of all people, then count me out. No man, no woman, no matter what office they’ve held or wealth they’ve acquired, are worthy of blind faith or obedience.”
Christie referenced the Republican Party’s shunning of the extremist John Birch Society in the 1960s – and the party’s subsequent dominance in presidential elections – as an example of how it could steer away from its own fringes.
“Reagan’s rejection of Birch’s extremism was a sterling example” of turning back extremism, Christie said. “He understood that telling the truth, standing up to lies, and pitching a big tent was a winning formula. And I believe that that is the advice he would give us today.”
Despite the heavy focus on his own party, the former governor nevertheless insisted that the country is on the wrong track under President Joe Biden, and that the conservative policies of the Republican Party remain the nation’s best solutions.
But he cautioned that such messaging is only effective if American voters believe what the Republican Party has to say – which becomes more difficult if the party’s leaders abet lying or become liars themselves.
“Telling the truth even when it’s difficult is what shows the American people they’re in better hands with Republicans than they are with Democrats,” Christie said. “All this lying has done harm to our nation, to our party, and to each other.”
Christie has a somewhat fraught personal history with Trump, losing to the former president in the 2016 Republican primaries and subsequently being considered, and ultimately rejected, for a formal role in Trump’s administration.
Now, with Republicans looking all the way ahead to 2024, Christie has been mentioned by Politico and The Hill as a potential candidate for president once again – speculation only furthered by tonight’s speech and Christie’s forthcoming book.
Reagan Institute director John Heubusch hearkened back to Christie’s speech at the Reagan Library 10 years ago, in which a woman in the audience asked the then one-term governor to run for president in 2012, and encouraged Christie to consider running once again.
“Personally, stealing a line from Governor Christie’s favorite singer and songwriter, I think he was Born to Run,” Heubusch said in his remarks introducing Christie. “But he has plenty of time to decide on that.”
Christie partook in no such speculation himself, however, ending his speech with the same message he had been hammering all night: the Republican Party can win again if it relearns to value the truth.
“Our party should demand of us that those hard truths be well-told, so that we can win back the hearts and minds and confidence of the American people,” he said. “If we do that, our nation and our party will once again be that shining city on a hill that President Reagan saw.”