Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick is a funny guy. Seriously. You wouldn’t really expect it at a glance – Bramnick is, after all, a Republican lawyer who very much looks the part of a Republican lawyer – but he’s also had some experience with stand-up comedy. So he knows how to make people laugh, and he knows the value of a little humor.
Bramnick, R-Union, carried that light-hearted message to the New Jersey League of Municipalities convention last week, where he helped lead a panel discussion on “The Power of LOL: Using Humor to Solve Municipal Issues.” The gist was that officials should lighten up a little in trying to get things done. They may find that a few laughs can make their path a lot easier, with allies and opponents alike.
It’s a message public officials would do well to heed. Most New Jerseyans would love to find a politician they can laugh with rather than laugh at. That doesn’t mean treating the serious business of government and politics lightly. It does mean giving residents a sense that real people are in charge, people with an independent mind and a sense of humor and not just a collection of vaguely shady characters serving themselves and their benefactors instead of the public.
There was a time when that was supposed to be Christie’s niche, a hard-driving federal attorney who had busted no small number of corrupt New Jersey politicians and said that, as governor, he was going to do things differently than the average politician. But Christie has turned out to be just as manipulative and abusive with his power as those of whom he had once been so critical. He earns points with the public for his own self-deprecating humor, but there’s a phony quality to it that’s been exposed by his thin-skinned arrogance and bullying nature.
There’s something a little different about Bramnick as well, but it feels more honest. He doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a loyal Republican. He is a skilled politician, having navigated Statehouse waters to a position of authority. He’s too much of an apologist for Christie, and now some believe the governor may be grooming him as his successor. Bramnick is certainly among the top Republicans in the mix for the 2017 gubernatorial race.
But Bramnick also spends a lot of time talking about humor and civility in politics, not exactly common topics among lawmakers. His “fiscal sanity tour” this year included a call to revamp the state’s corrupted redistricting process to make it less partisan. That would be to the Republicans’ advantage, of course; Democrats controlling the Legislature are also able to control that redistricting process through the partisan appointment of a tie-breaking voter. But without a more independent approach, most legislative districts will remain hopelessly non-competitive.
Here’s hoping Bramnick does indeed toss his hat into the gubernatorial ring for 2017. Maybe he can be what Christie has only pretended to be — a leader who can distance himself from the usual political nonsense and govern the state responsibly. We’d still like to think that’s possible. Hey, don’t laugh.