Monday, February 17, 2014

Crist: Life of the (New) Party

Florida’s next governor’s election is still months away, but it is at least certain that Charlie Crist will play a major role in it – even if he does end up eventually ceding to someone else in the Democratic primary. His memoir, The Party’s Over, is a well-timed effort that is part biographical, and part election tactic. A very wise tactic. People have a lot of questions about Crist’s loyalties, and he makes a plausible attempt to explain himself.

I use the word “plausible” on purpose. Crist is still a politician, and I take any word coming out of the mouth of a politician with a grain of salt.  I’m sure critics will claim there are flaws in his explanations, and some of them may end up even being right. But for the record, here’s a rundown of points that may interest readers of this blog.

Crist explains his decision to run for the Senate in much the same way I expected, when responding to Scott fanatics who say he “abandoned” Florida. Crist explains that he felt that, during a national crisis, he could be of more service to Florida serving as a senator than as a governor. And that's undoubtedly true.

He explains his gradual conversion from Republican to Independent to Democrat in terms of realizing his ideology was becoming less suited to an increasingly mean-spirited Republican Party that was coming under the sway of Tea Party fanatics. Crist identifies himself as a Republican, in the earlier time, in the mold of Teddy Roosevelt: Populist, conservationist, and so on.  He also says that his decisions to first run as an Independent, and then as a Democrat, were not his idea from the start, but ultimately, were reactions to suggestions made by others. These points blunt criticisms of Crist as a turncoat, which are already a fundamental part of the Rick Scott (non-)campaign.

Crist doesn’t spend as much time in this book arguing for his views as he does explaining them. He often expresses surprise that others can hold contrary views. I wish he’d argued more for his views, even on points with which I disagree with him. But maybe he didn’t have to. This book seems to be more about energizing his potential voting base than convincing those with different views to change their minds. Having dealt so much with Scott fanatics whose minds are impervious to new ideas, I can understand why Crist wouldn’t bother with arguments. 

He describes the Scott administration in much the same way this blog’s authors would. Scott squeaked to a win with barely a few tens of thousands of votes, but acts like he won with a million-vote mandate. Dissenting views are not welcome at the table. Instead, the table is thrown into the pulper. (Crist’s image, not mine!)

There’s a chapter on Rick Scott as governor (“terrible,” Crist calls him). In the prior chapter Crist discusses the transition, and says Scott told reporters that Crist would be “hard to replace.” If he can get that quote on something recorded, he ought to use it as a response to that ad where Scott quotes Democrats badmouthing Crist. In the chapter on Scott, there’s nothing new – which is not to say, it is not relevant – except a personal story Crist tells of his longtime barber, whom he had appointed to the state barbering board. This hardworking, good-natured guy would have been slated to take over a national association related to his profession, but Rick Scott decided to cut him, and because of that, he was no longer eligible to become part of that national association.

That’s pretty well the Scott administration in a nutshell. Scott doesn’t care about people, or how hard they’ve worked to achieve their dreams. He could never portray himself as caring about people, which is a big advantage Crist (or any of the Democratic candidates) has over him. Many of Florida’s voters are starved for a government that knows the meaning of the word “compassion” after four years of being trashed and kicked into the gutter by Scott. 

It’s a pretty decent book. You should buy it. At the very least, it will annoy Rick Scott if you do.

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