Chris Christie: Iowa Freedom Summit Speech Analysis

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie encouraged affirmation of conservative ideals in his speech at the 2015 Iowa Freedom Summit on Jan. 24.

The inaugural summit was hosted by Citizens United and Congressman Steve King at the Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines, Iowa.


Courtesy: Twitter

Courtesy: Twitter

Christie opened by identifying the one emotion he noticed from people in the 37 states he traveled to during the 2014 governor elections.

“The media will try to tell you that it’s anger,” he said. “It’s not. It’s anxiety.”

He attributed the anxiety to economic stagnation, citing real median income figures from the United State Census Bureau from 2011 to 2013.

Claim: “According to the Census Bureau—think about this—in 2011, 2012, and 2013, the real median household income in this country was less than $52,000. We haven’t had three years in a row like that with no increase at all since 1993 to 1995. In other words, the average American is living just about as well as they did before Al Gore invented the internet.”

Did the real median household income really remain less than $52,000 from 2011 to 2013?

No. The real median household income in the United States in 2013 was not below $52,000. According to the Census Bureau, it was $52,250. However, it was below that mark in 2011 and 2012.

The rest?

True. More or less.

According to Census Bureau report, the real median household income in 1995 was $34,076. While it is obviously not a similar figure, it has a similar value. It would have been worth $52,010.74 in 2013, as determined by the American Institute of Economic Research’s cost of living calculator, which accounts for inflation.

FREDAs shown in the FRED graph to the left, real median household incomes in the years directly following 2010 dropped closer to the real median household income in 1995 (the graph reflects adjusted annual dollars). The shaded areas indicate recession.

Click here for the full interactive graph.

So Christie was right. Americans are living “just about as well” as they did 20 years ago.

The governor tied the anxiety to an “overwhelming feeling” that it is impossible to “get ahead” with the stagnant economy; that better opportunities are “simply out of reach.” He pins this on the nation’s leadership.

“There is uncertainty in our country, and it is a product of the failure of leadership by those we expect not just to set the tone, but to actually follow through and execute,” he said. “And that failure has happened at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.”

That would be the White House.

Christie spoke about the “culture of distrust” created by “persistent divisiveness in Washington” which has led to a “paralysis and a failure to get anything done.”

The governor claims this has ultimately hindered the American people’s pursuit of happiness. He claims citizens have the right to pursue happiness as they define it, not as “some imperial president tries to determine it.”

Ultimately, he suggests the way to “renew” America is to tell the truth.

“I know this because we did it in New Jersey,” he said.

He cited his transparency regarding his stance on abortion to illustrate this.

“When the same political consultants told me that there was no way I could be elected governor of New Jersey as a pro-life Republican … they were wrong,” Christie said.

Claim: “Despite what those conventional wisdom hawks may say to you, I can assure you the
being pro-life is not a political liability anywhere in America.”

While this may have been the case for Christie, it is not a universal truth in American politics.

According to a Gallup poll, 17 percent of voters in the 2012 election said they would vote “only for candidates for major office who share their own views on abortion.” That was one in six voters whose vote depended on a candidate’s abortion stance, enough to consider it a “threshold issue.”

The research further noted it was one of the “higher rates of abortion-centric voting” in any presidential election dating back to 1992.

While Christie’s faith in truth is commendable, he was not right. Being pro-life, or pro-choice for that matter, could be a political liability.

The governor stood firmly by his conservative ideals, claiming that if conservatism is going to succeed “it must be able to defend itself.”

Christie at the inaugural Ag Summit in Des Moines on March 7. Courtesy: John Pemble, Flickr Creative Commons

Christie at the inaugural Ag Summit in Des Moines on March 7.
Courtesy: John Pemble, Flickr Creative Commons

“When [conservatives] talk about our values and ideas, people respond. I have seen it all over the country. It is a belief that it is our job and the job of the government to five the people an opportunity to success … a belief that what works best is a government that understands the value
of that opportunity and people’s desire for it over the crippling diminishment of the entitlement state,” he said.

Overall, Christie is more or less right when he says the American people are “anxious” about the government: It is the No. 1 U.S. problem for Americans, according to a March Gallup poll. It was the fourth consecutive month government was cited as the top problem.

Though, whether conservatism is the ticket to change is left to the voters.

“What we lack in America today is a national leader who we feel we truly know,” he said.

And so Christie concluded his speech with a promise.

“I will guarantee you this, for me. I will not be willing a part of a generation that makes John Adams repent in heaven for having made the sacrifices that he and our founding fathers made for the liberty we enjoy and the freedom we live under today,” he said.

“It is time for us to stand up and fight together for the country that we were given … I will always stand with you and fight with you and tell you the truth.”

He got the first part of the John Adams quote wrong when he cited it prior to the promise. Adams actually said: “You will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom.” Not: “You shall never know the sacrifices we endured to secure for you your liberty.”

But that is beside the point. The concluding promise felt allusive to a possible decision to run in 2016, a possibility further entertained with the formation of a PAC two days later (per The Washington Post).

Watch the full speech here:


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