What the Rest of the GOP Should Learn from Chris Christie

Christie doesn't like the idea of same-sex marriage, but he knows when a debate is over.

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The GOP has come to terms recently with the difference between caving and accepting reality – case in point, finally agreeing to reopen the government without insisting on the undoing of the Affordable Care Act.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (whom one can't imagine having shut down the government, anyway) has also come around, announcing he will not continue trying to stop gay marriages in New Jersey. It's not that Christie has suddenly become a big fan of same-sex marriages. He noted recently in a debate that if one of his children announced he or she was gay, he would hug his child and offer unconditional love – while underscoring that he believes marriage is between one man and one woman.

But Christie, who can be described more as a pragmatist than a moderate, saw the handwriting in the court documents and figured it was just a waste of everyone's time to keep fighting a lost battle. Said his administration in a statement announcing Christie would drop his appeal of a court ruling upholding gay unions:

Although the governor strongly disagrees with the court substituting its judgment for the constitutional process of the elected branches or a vote of the people, the court has now spoken clearly as to their view of the New Jersey Constitution. Therefore, same-sex marriage is the law.

[ See a collection of political cartoons on gay marriage.]

Imagine that – accepting that the law is the law, no matter how much one might not like it. Did Christie go on TV and accuse his opponents of being socialists or evil or even some kind of social engineers? No. Did he threaten to send all state workers home and withhold their paychecks until he got his way? No. Did he stomp his feet and demand that the court meet him half-way by allowing only hospital visits and joint checking accounts, instead of marriage, to same-sex couples? Of course not.

That's why Christie is as popular as he is in New Jersey, even among Democrats. He's blunt about how he feels and what he would like to happen, but he understands that being governor doesn't make him king. And it doesn't mean he gets to manipulate the system to get his way.

Christie doesn't like the idea of same-sex marriage, but he's not letting it interfere with the rest of his job, which is running the state and, in particular, helping New Jersey recover from the economic devastation from Superstorm Sandy. Pragmatism is the best quality among the GOP's most impressive officials. Christie's colleagues in his party might want to take notice.