Monday, March 7, 2016

Supplemental Post #3: The White Trash Aesthetic, The Pine Barrens, and Chris Christie

I’m from New Jersey. Originally, I’m from a small town called Jackson in Southern New Jersey, near the Pine Barrens. After the reading Goel’s article “Blue Suede Shoes, The White Aesthetic,” I was thinking about the ways in which the "White Trash" Aesthetic lives in the Pine Barrens, my town, and then somehow I started thinking about Chris Christie. I come from a predominately conservative town who very much fit much of what Goel described and most people in my town loved Chris Chirstie. And somehow instantly I started thinking about the ways in which Chris Christie plays into and against the "White Trash" Aesthetic in New Jersey in order to get wield political power.

I think it’s more interesting to think of his beginnings in New Jersey as Governor before he entered the national news and presidential race. Before all of this, I think you see a politician being very specific and strategic with his persona and affiliations with not just working class New Jersey but also winning the approval of  predominantly “White Trash”  Southern New Jersey. At times, he embrace this “White Trash" Aethetic and persona for votes and at other times he distances himself from it to appeal a larger audiences. I think Chris Christie (at least when he was first elected in New Jersey) tired to appeal to the working class, white population of New Jersey. The governor before him, Corzine was a man of Wall street money.  Before the 2010 election had been getting very bad press including getting into car accident, not a seat belt. This car accident actually led to him being in crunches for most of the political debates between Corzine and Christie. This bolstered the idea that Corzine was this reckless, careless rich kid and that Christie was a no-nonsense, every-man.

In the debates and in his public self, Chris Christie puts on and exaggerates this persona in order to appeal to not only the white working class of urban spheres of Northern New Jersey but Goel’s "White Trash" class who predominately live in the Pine Barrens of Southern New Jersey.  He panders to working class New Jersey, working class New Jersey who very much define themselves as separate from "White Trash," Pine Barren New Jersey.  (These people from the Pine Barrens are usually reffered to as "Pineys" by people from Northern New Jersey.) He makes sure people know that he's worked for everything he's got. And because of this hard work, he gets to enjoy the privileges of his hard work. He sends his kids to a nice private school. He went to law school. He was a successful attorney. 

But at the same time, Christie takes up a lot of the qualities that Goel lists in oder to appeal to the backwoods, population of New Jersey.  He insults the intellectual, the corporate, the upperclass.He aligns himself with the big, loud rhetoric, the kind of rhetoric made to be “a philosophy on a T-shirt.”  (Goel) He has little use for the ‘order of things,’ the pretentious elite, and proud of the impolite. (Goel)   He says these things to spark emotion in the “White Trash” base. But then at the same time, he can pivot talking only about the working class of New Jersey and making sure that his own wealth and statue is recognized. He caters to the "White Trash" Aesthetic but always made it clear that he was separate, better, smarter, faster than that. He wanted the votes that came with that persona but he didn’t want to be reduced or over simplified to that stereotype.

Of course, there's so much to say and I've only just started to think about this…

Collection of Clips from Asbury Park Press called "Sit Down and Shut Up" and other Christie Moments 

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