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How Christie hurt political science

(Associated Press)

Back in July, well known Rutgers political scientist Alan Rosenthal died. He got a glowing tribute from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Alan was a true New Jerseyan. He loved our state and committed much of his life to the study of its political institutions. He also leaves a legacy of thousands of students who studied under him at Rutgers and consider him a mentor and friend. New Jersey has lost a great advocate and, on behalf of the people of our state, I offer condolences to the Rosenthal family.

However, relations between them weren’t always so congenial, as reports. When New Jersey was going through its last redistricting cycle, Rosenthal was appointed as the tie-breaker between the Republican and Democratic members of the redistricting commission.

[T]he night before Christie arrived, something had gone dreadfully wrong for the Republicans. Alan Rosenthal, who had been appointed by State Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner as the tiebreaker, the person whose vote would decide whose map would win, offered a compromise map for both parties to work with. … The Republicans told Rosenthal thanks, but no thanks. They’d stick to drawing their own map. … The Republicans, with Christie in the room, would have the last word in final arguments before Rosenthal on why he should pick their map … the Democrats … won.

A few months later Christie used his line-item veto powers as governor to axe funding for a fellowship program run by Rosenthal. No doubt Christie only had the interests of New Jersey’s taxpayers at heart. Any collateral damage to a political scientist who had gone against him was just one of those unfortunate coincidences that sometimes happen in politics.

Henry Farrell is associate professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University. He works on a variety of topics, including trust, the politics of the Internet and international and comparative political economy.



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Henry Farrell · January 10, 2014

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