If Elected Would Crist Actually Govern From the Left?

By Kartik Krishnaiyer

While many in Florida politics today are fixated on Jacksonville today with the growing Allied and FOP scandal, it is important to discuss the Governor’s race.

The continued obsession with Charlie Crist has continued among Democrats in recent months growing to a fever pitch. Speculation about Crist’s plans and his presence in the Democratic Party fuels passion on all sides of the debate. But Crist himself will have to make a critical decision. For a man who has seemed to depend on likability and amicable relationships throughout his career with a Republican led Legislature he may very well just go along to get along. With many Democrats  desperate for any kind of success on the state level  ready to accept Crist with open arms they may not ask the questions that need to be asked of him. But progressives who form the backbone of the Obama coalition in this state must be given sufficient cover by the former Governor himself.  Crist’s positions on gun issues and his consistent partisan attacks in the 1990s on Governor Lawton Chiles will need to be addressed if he is to become a Democratic standard bearer.

To doubt Charlie Crist was once a partisan Republican is foolhardy, and would involve a significant re-writing of history. In 1995, as State Senator he held up Governor Lawton Chiles most critical administrative appointments until the final day of session for strictly political reasons. The same year he initiated a Senate investigation of campaign calls made by the Chiles campaign, at great expense to the taxpayers. In the long history of political campaigns, dirty tricks have been conducted over and over again, and Chiles’ calls were not out of the ordinary. In the very same election GOP nominee Jeb Bush accused Governor Chiles of being soft on crime while shamelessly exploiting the family of a murder victim in a TV ad. But it was Chiles that was accused of dirty tricks by Crist in a politically motivated investigation which cost the taxpayers millions of dollars.

In 1996, he helped lead the Republican opposition to Governor Chiles landmark lawsuit against the Tobacco Industry and then a year later, Crist conducted another partisan witch hunt, this time against the attorneys who bravely represented the state in the Tobacco Lawsuit. In a twist of irony, some of those same lawyers have become political allies of the more moderate new version of Crist.

By 1997, Crist was firmly viewed within the halls of the Legislature as a show horse and a partisan.If Crist filed legislation, any legislation it seemed he called a press conference. After being crushed in the 1998 US Senate race by Democrat Bob Graham, Crist was the 2000 Republican nominee for Commissioner of Education. I was heavily involved in that campaign for George Sheldon and during the course of fall election, Crist echoed every right-wing talking point about education, school “choice” and standardized testing (ie. the FCAT) imaginable. He was the perfect partisan candidate for the GOP who was making education “reform” a priority.

Crist’s tenure as Attorney General was a mixed bag. When compared to the rest of the cabinet he looked sane and moderate. But when compared to other Attorney General’s around the nation he looked slow, reactive and excessively political. Republicans have joked about President Obama’s multilateral approach as “leading from behind” but that is literally what Crist did as A.G. Still Crist’s record in that office was not to the satisfaction of many partisan Republicans who craved a conservative activist in that office.

Crist began a transformation from partisan Republican to political pragmatist who felt the pulse of Florida’s electorate while Attorney General. Crist’s advocacy on the environment and insurance reform have been in particular noteworthy for progressives, but his record on reproductive rights, education, and gun control are all very worrying for progressives.

Ultimately Crist will have to be trusted on these issues to be the Democratic nominee for Governor. While many Floridians perceive that gun control is unpopular in the state as I will point out in the near future, electoral politics history contradict that perception. If Crist were to be nominated as a Democrat his long established record on guns and education could create a real problem, costing the Democrats turnout in a midterm election. As we know, midterm elections favor Republicans and that partly explains that the GOP has won 85% of statewide elections in Florida run during the off years this millennium.

Dave Trotter’s piece at the Political Hurricane on this subject is worth reading. Democrats continue to assume Crist will crush Rick Scott in November 2014 if nominated. I am unconvinced by this logic, because as you peel away the emotion and hype and look at cold hard facts, a Democrat who galvanizes the base of progressive voters who do not typically vote in a mid-term election stands a better chance.

Of greater concern to progressives may be whether Crist will actually govern effectively if elected. Given his propensity for disloyalty, it is a question certainly worth pondering.

15 comments

  1. The choice is clear. He can NEVER be trusted.

    Like

  2. Advance notice to Ds. Crist can never be trusted. He is a pathological liar.

    Like

  3. Get a clue · ·

    Another hackish leftist piece from the master of losing lefty propoganda. Your ilk will make it impossible for a Democrat to ever win again in this state.

    Like

    1. And the Democrats have done so well in recent elections running what I must assume is YOUR ilk statewide. Alex Sink gave many activist liberals no reason to walk precincts, make calls, hold signs or do anything else to help her win. So as a result we got Rick Scott. In 2002 and even the wave year of 2006 we literally had to push people out the door to vote for moderate Democrats because most activists were disinterested in the rhetoric they heard from the top of the ticket. Obama ran to the left and carried this state TWICE. Simply “running to the middle” accomplishes nothing. To quote Jim Hightower “nothing is in the middle of the road except yellow lines and dead armadillos.”

      Voters base support on personalities and issues. No one walks into a polling place and says “I am sort of halfway on this issue and kinda feel so-so about this thing so let me vote for the moderate.” They vote based on passionate support or opposition on various fronts. They may call themselves moderates but vote based either on conservative or liberal positions and principles. Talking heads keep decrying the loss of civility and compromise in politics but that is just insider speak and the reality is that two parties that are ideologically opposed to one another and compete on values based issues is GOOD for democracy. In the past when Democrats in Florida have played “Republican lite” the voters have not been fooled and given the choice to vote for a phony Republican or a real Republican vote for the real one almost every time.

      Like

    2. Jesus Crist · ·

      It’s like Jim Hightower says: “There’s nothing in the middle of the road except yellow stripes and dead armadillos.” As a Democrat, I am sick and damn tired of voting for dead armadillos. Why should people vote for a Democrat trying to be a Republican when they can just vote for the real thing? We have seen what happens when the base is motivated – they GO VOTE and guess what? People who are in our base happen to live and work with Independents and soft Republicans. They’re related to them too. When our people are motivated, they not only go vote, they get the people around them to vote. I am really sick of this “myth of the Independent.” These people don’t live in a vacuum. They interact with, work with, live with, and are related to people in our base. When our people are excited about a candidate, can clearly articulate what our candidate stands for and is motivated, it has a very big effect on these infrequent voters. Get over this idea that in order to be somebody, you have to stand for nobody.

      Like

      1. Well said both Jesus Crist and Kartik. NO ONE wants to vote for nothing over something.

        Like

  4. Get a clue · ·

    Besides Charlie will win easily

    Like

  5. Crist is our best hope and with today’s Carroll news, victory is near. He has won three statewide elections in the span you point out the Democrats have only won two. Thus has clearly demonstrated he can get those votes. The moderates will all vote for him and he can win back areas of the state we are getting killed in. He can win the places Obama lost.

    Like

    1. “victory is near”

      Until the CharLIE scandals return to the forefront.

      Like

  6. lol ….Jack you are the reason why we need drug testing.

    Like

  7. Crist is a danger to the liberals apparently.

    Like

  8. Crist is going to be Governor again folks. Just accept it already!

    Like

  9. The issue with Crist is Sargeant’s probe and Dems & Rep will not allow Carroll or Crist/Sargeant take advantage of our troops through money laundering or war profits. Folks. I say it is going to be Nelson.

    Like

  10. CLUELESS DEMS · ·

    This incredible thread just sums up everything.

    Like

%d bloggers like this: