Former Governor Charlie Crist has filed his paperwork to return to the Governor’s mansion but this time as a Democrat. His announcement has been met with great fanfare by many Democrats desperate after years in the wilderness at the state level. We’re told Charlie Crist will beat Rick Scott and his opponent Nan Rich, cannot.
We don’t need to asses the viability of Nan Rich’s campaign today. I think without ruffling too many feathers, we can safely say she is not the ideal standard bearer for the Democrats in 2014- this having been determined she is the person who stepped forward to run when more ideal candidates did not, and for that deserves full marks. The idea that some quietly float that we should not nominate a woman or a south Florida liberal for Governor is both wrongheaded and smacks of the worst types of bias. Later in this piece, I will discuss the 2002 Governor’s race where this mistake was made and the Democratic Party is still paying for it. On a personal level, Governor Crist is more likely to connect with individual voters because he personal style is generally consider warmer and more apt to listening than Senator Rich or Governor Scott. This all having been said, current public polling aside (and public polling a year before an election is often times a poor guide to follow) no guarantee exists that Governor Crist is stronger than Senator Rich as a potential nominee and worse yet, no guarantee exists that either can defeat Rick Scott. As an observer I see plenty of liabilities in both candidacies and it is unfair to firmly say at this point Senator Rich has more liabilities than Governor Crist.
Are political parties simply like sports teams where cheer on your team (as has been the case with a lot of the Democrats not only on this Crist matter but in backing some of the more unseemly policies of the Obama Administration) or is meant to reflect the values and ideology of its members? Should critical-thinking skills be dropped at the door as you enter the halls of a political party? A Crist nomination would clearly make the Democrats appear to be a non-ideological party competing against a party that has stood for something for years (albeit stood for the wrong things in most cases) in the marketplace of ideas. My experience guides me to say when confronted with something against nothing, something generally wins. Rick Scott’s Republicans offer Florida something, albeit something many of us disagree with. Charlie Crist’s Democrats would be in vaguely undefined territory and attached to a public record of job loses and flip-flops.
Democrats have made mistake after mistake in recent statewide races leading to a run where the Republican Party of Florida has been the most successful political party east of the Mississippi River since 2000. The laundry list of excuses the Democrats give for not being more competitive in this state should have run out a decade ago.
I think back to 2001 when Democrats were flocking to run against Jeb Bush. We were told that Bush was super vulnerable. No less than seven high-profile candidates were in the race at one time. When it all shook down, two high-profile candidates (Ambassador Pete Peterson and Congressman Jim Davis) left the race and two others opted to run for other office (Mayor Scott Maddox and State Rep. Lois Frankel). That left a three-way primary between State Sen. Daryl Jones, Bill McBride and former US Attorney General Janet Reno. Party bigwigs wanted McBride and warned that Janet Reno would flop miserably statewide because she was a south Florida liberal (but also presumably because she was a she). McBride won the nomination by a razor thin margin and what ensued was a non-ideological campaign against the state’s chief right-wing ideologue Jeb Bush. Bush won by a record margin for a Republican with many liberals opting to stay home. Democrats were routed up and down the ballot throughout the state. Election Day 2002 was the worst the Democrats have experienced in Florida since the of the Reconstruction era in the 1870s. On a personal note, I supported Janet Reno and feel to this day the state of Florida lost out on what would have been a potential Governorship to make us proud.
In 2006, Democrats had a contentious primary between State Sen. Rod Smith and the aforementioned Jim Davis. Davis, who was strongly backed by Senator Bob Graham squeaked through the primary and was beat in the General Election by Crist. Davis had been so bloodied by the primary and Smith’s largely negative campaign that he spent a month trying to reconnect with the base of the party, leaving Crist to run a campaign on a hodgepodge of issues (mostly conservative but decidedly liberal on the single issue of Insurance Reform). Many Democrats assumed Davis couldn’t win and didn’t work very hard for him instead opting to focus on other races. In the end, Davis lost but not by the margin some expected. The day after the election Congressman Alcee Hastings lamented that many Democrats had been quick write off Davis after the Primary and that had he been backed appropriately by some in Florida and many outside of Florida he may have just upset Crist.
By 2010 it had been determined by party elders that having a primary was a bad thing. Well Alex Sink went into the General Election untested and unconnected to her base. She lost. Having blown the previous two Governor’s races due to tactical errors it was thought the Democrats would be smarter about things in 2010- But they were not.
Now as we approach 2014 the Democrats after three Gubernatorial cycles of total miscalculation have opted to go in a completely different direction. They have opted to open the gates of struggling party to someone whose public record is lengthy and almost completely at odds with the professed ideology of the Democratic Party. But perhaps the Democrats actually lack an ideology.
Ann Coulter is about my least favorite person in this country. But she has long argued that Democrats are merely interested in obtaining power. I feel the same way about Republicans but this morning given the quick rush among many Democrats to back Crist and not ask the right questions about his candidacy, I sense Coulter may have pegged many Democrats, particularly Florida Democrats correctly.
Many Democrats I sense are so anxious for power and the taste of political spoils that they are willing to lie in bed with anybody. Some of these people who are pushing Crist to me have been doing so because it may represent an employment opportunity for them either in the campaign or if he were elected. In some cases those folks have taken to maligning publicly people who profess an ideology or a values system which after all is what makes people Democrats.
I understand the the big tent concept and taking in converts. But what sort of party makes a convert its leader within a year of becoming a Democrat? A self-professed Reagan Republican is days away from becoming the titular head of Florida’s Democrats. For many desperate Democrats this is all good and well.