If you think things never change in politics, you should think of Jeff Van Drew.
The south Jersey congressman has gone from a Democrat, albeit a conservative one, to a full-blown MAGA-Republican in a bit more than three years.
That interpretation, while true for some time, was reconfirmed Friday when Van Drew said he was asked by Donald Trump to head the 2024 Trump campaign in New Jersey.
This really is a symbolic posting; New Jersey has not been a competitive presidential state for a generation, but that’s not really the point.
Van Drew coupled that news with an announcement that he would also seek reelection to his CD-2 House seat next year.
That’s relevant, because some wanted him to run for the U.S. Senate. Van Drew said in a video posted on social media that he was “humbled” by the suggestion, but he has more to do in Congress.
At the same time, running for Senate would have meant giving up his House seat, which is relatively safe. And let’s not forget that winning the Senate seat would have been a long shot by any measure.
Van Drew’s relationship with Trump was cemented when the then-president came to Wildwood for a rally in January of 2020 and singled him out. The congressman also had a speaking appearance at that year’s Republican convention.
Even with that backdrop, it was a bit jarring to listen to Van Drew talking about his reelection plans on social media.
He spoke darkly of “criminals” taking over and added the following observation:
“Normal people – like us – are treated as second class citizens.”
This is Trump-like rhetoric at its “best.” So much of the MAGA-movement focuses on an “us versus them” philosophy, or perhaps, it’s the “normal people” against everyone else.
The former president, for his part, praised Van Drew and said that his campaign can win New Jersey – “possibly by a lot.”
That seems a bit dubious.
Trump got about 41 percent of the vote in New Jersey both times he ran.
Not only that, we have seen that candidates who embrace Trump can’t even win Republican primaries in New Jersey.
Hearing Van Drew’s twin announcements brought me back to January 2019 when I was in Washington for the swearing in of that year’s new Congress.
Van Drew was in his new office, holding his grandson, and talking about how there was a nice mixture of Democrats being sworn in. At the time, he was one of four new Dems in Congress from New Jersey.
As stated, things have changed a lot since then.
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Author: Fred Snowflack