Orbital Matters

Saturn Smith
Editor’s Pick
APRIL 29, 2010 8:00AM

Charlie Crist Should've Run as a Democrat

Rate: 6 Flag

Alert Alaska: Charlie Crist is goin’ rogue! The Florida governor is set to announce today that he’ll continue running for governor, but as a non-affiliated candidate, not a member of the Republican party (hat-tip: Kathy Riordan). That’s extremely convenient news, as the Republican party was looking quite likely to not to vote for Charlie Crist in its upcoming primary.

This is exciting in the same way that a tie in the electoral college would be exciting: in a purely political science nerd kind of way. Think of the ramifications! All of Crist’s campaign workers, many of whom have had their salaries paid in part by the national party or GOP PACs, now must choose: candidate loyalty or party uber alles? Those bold Republicans who’ve endorsed Crist in the past must also choose: Did they mean what they said? Mitch McConnell said not that long ago:

“Charlie Crist has been a tireless advocate for the citizens of Florida by fighting to lower taxes, reduce government spending and enhance the quality of life for all Floridians. Decisions are being made every day in Washington that have a direct impact upon the lives of all Americans and we need Charlie Crist in the U.S. Senate to ensure that those decisions will benefit the citizens of Florida.”

Does the minority leader now want to vote against a man whose very presence in the Senate would, in his words, benefit the citizens of a state with an enormous number of electoral votes? Has he discovered something that would change his mind about Charlie Crist?

No one, of course, is going to be honest about this. McConnell will pull his endorsement, as will the Republican National Committee’s Senate PAC, and they will both say that they’re just following “the will of the Florida people.” Charlie Crist, in leaving the GOP, will say the same thing. Who’s right?


The truth is Crist hasn’t changed, and neither has McConnell. What’s changed is Crist’s position in the race: he’s a loser.So Mitch McConnell’s issue with Charlie Crist isn’t that he’s moderate — it’s that he’s not going to win the primary. And Charlie Crist’s problem with the GOP isn’t that they’ve left him behind — it’s that they disagree on the pressing matter of whether he’d make a better senator than Marco Rubio.

The weirdest thing about any independent run is the way that everyone — the candidate, the media, the staff, the voters — overlook the most ironic element of the whole thing. We’re all going to take up the Independent label for Crist as soon as he declares it for himself. Yet hardly any independent candidate is really wholly independent of a party. Crist got all of his name recognition and most of his political funding thus far through the Republican Party. Unless he radically changes his positions in the next few days — doubtful — he’s not truly a non-affiliated candidate, just out there, being independent, thinking his own thoughts. He’s a guy who wants to go to Washington, D.C. and caucus with the Republican minority. There are still dues to be paid in order to do that, dues that will include voting for Republican programs and against Democratic initiatives. Senator Crist, in D.C., will be a Republican Except in Name.

To say that Charlie Crist is independent, just like saying Joe Lieberman is independent, is an insult to the word “independent.” It doesn’t mean anything except that he briefly saw an advantage to changing a letter beside his name on a ballot.

Charlie Crist is a pro-stimulus, pro-health care, pro-education environmentalist who’s unpopular with people who want more teachers fired and fewer taxes on the wealthy. There’s a word for people who vote like that and believe like that, Governor, and the word isn’t “independent.” It’s “Democrat.” (And sure, he’s pro-gun and pro-life, but have you met Ben Nelson?). True political courage would be to admit not that you’re opportunistically trying to find a way to have your cake and eat it, too; it would be to admit that you’ve never fit in the party you claimed, your views have changed the further into office you’ve gone, and you’d like a chance to make things right.

The “independent” label should mean something. So, probably, should the outright scorn of your current party.

Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
Politics is half expedience and half charisma. This could all backfire on Crist, or it could be brilliant. We shall see.

You make some interesting points in any case, Saturn. Does Independent simply mean a person does their own thinking, or is it a classic nose-thumbing?
The current Republicans cannot or will not tolerate a moderate man. He is a dying bred, a moderate Republican.
I hate this cynical party-changing. You're right it DOES give independents a bad name, of which I used to be one, and intend to be again.

It's all (meaning anything remotely Washintonian) just FUBAR these days anyhow. Even if you had the WILL to get things done, you'd be f'd. I need a margarita.
Don't we have enough snorkeling in the Democratic party already?
This is way more like Lieberman than anything else. Once popular, but on the wrong side of the new third rail issue for the foam-at-the-mouth wing of the party that gets energized for primaries. For Joe it was Iraq, for Crist it was spending.

Joe didn't have a Republican candidate to speak of. The issue becomes how strong the democrat is. MSNBC today also intimated it was going to be a veritable shit storm of personal ethics allegations between Crist and Runio, so maybe Crist knows something we don't at this point about Marco....
In twenty first century politics, political independent candidate = messianic complex. I'm too good not to run.

If you like the independents politics, that ok, if you don't, it's self serving. I prefer not to be a hypocrite, I think it's mental masturbation on the part of the candidate who sees they can't win a primary, in the 21st century.
uh, no.

A Floridian
I can think of one "Independent" - Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Sure he caucuses with the Democrats, but he ran as a "Democratic Socialist" and won! And for my money, he is the most interesting guy in the Sentate.
I think another way to look at this Saturn is the way that the liberal anchor of the SC today is Stevens. Stevens has always been a Republican, appointed as he was by Ford. I think the country has fallen off the Right cliff, and he was left hanging on, so he only looks "liberal" by comparison.
Crist is what Republicans should be, if they werent all sucking on the Nordquist teat.
I like to think Crist was pro-stimulus because he'd already seen how bad things were going economically in Florida and making a bad situation worse by refusing free money wasn't going to be good for anyone. And he's not dumb like Mark Sanford. His setting the stage for moving away from the republicans by putting a thumb in JEB! Bush's eye in vetoing the lame senate education bill recently was great stuff. Crist's breaking off from the republicans provides us in Florida with a fun diversion from watching the oil slick in the Gulf and worrying about the coming hurricane season. Speaking of potential disasters, it will be interesting to see what happens politically if a bad storm hits; will Charlie will roll up his sleaves while Rubio and the rest of the Tallahassee schmucks refuse to spend a dime helping anyone? And maybe this is the next step in the evolution of our policitical system, a slow and wholly imperfect restructuring of the strict two-party system. Chain gang Charlie hasn't stumbled often and come 2011 we may be addressing the Governor as Senator, again. Oh, btw, can I get those air jordan's in red? lol
would anyone prefer to be a citizen of a democracy?

or is soap opera montague-capulet politics fun to watch, while waiting for the next war, depression, or environmental disaster?