Big Slick has returned from the political wilderness, as we all knew he would. Charlie Crist was too good a politician to stay out of the game. In an op-ed published in the Tampa Bay Times Sunday, the day the Republican National Convention was set to begin in that newspaper’s city, the former Republican governor of Florida endorsed Democrat Barack Obama for president. That’s an incomplete statement, of course — Crist was always a fairly moderate politician, and he turned independent during a 2010 Senate run went it looked like he was going to lose big in the Republican primary to Marco Rubio.
The editorial praises Obama, with Crist writing after a list of examples, “President Obama has a strong record of doing what is best for America and Florida, and he built it by spending more time worrying about what his decisions would mean for the people than for his political fortunes.” It also excoriates the Republican Party, with Crist writing, “An element of their party has pitched so far to the extreme right on issues important to women, immigrants, seniors and students that they’ve proven incapable of governing for the people. … The truth is that the party has failed to demonstrate the kind of leadership or seriousness voters deserve.”
By “an element of their party,” I can only assume Crist means “every crazier-than-a-shithouse-rat Republican in the party.” But that’s neither here nor there. The point is that Crist has officially kicked off the come-to-Jesus phase of his conversion to the Democratic Party. There was little to no chance the Republicans would welcome Crist back to their ranks after he bailed on them in the middle of a campaign, but endorsing the opposing party’s president on the day of the convention in the newspaper of the city chosen as the convention site? Wow. Crist may as well have hired a double-decker bus, stood on its roof with Rage Against the Machine blaring from loudspeakers, and mooned the entire RNC delegation as the bus drove by the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
And so, Big Slick is now playing for the other side. Which is actually great for Democrats. Until his freefall in 2010, the man was well-liked by both parties, with a definite cachet among independents. It’s been
amusing sadly predictable to watch everything unfold. The editorial came out, and Democrats immediately used it as evidence for the fact that the Republican Party has gone completely around the bend and will have a near-impossible time getting any votes outside of its swirly-eyed, snake-handling, speaking-in-tongues base this presidential election. The Republican response was equally predictable — Republican Party of Florida Chair Lenny Curry issued an email in which he offered Republicans helpful talking points about Charlie Crist, including that he’s a “crass political opportunist” and that “Despite the threat Florida is facing from a severe storm, Charlie Crist has demonstrated, yet again, that his political ambition will always come before the needs of Floridians.”
I’m not sure which is worse — that Crist put “his political ambition … before the needs of Floridians” or that Curry used Tropical Storm Isaac and the woes of his fellow Floridians for a cheap political attack. Talk about crass. But, really, why can’t it be both? Is it not possible that Charlie Crist is a crass political opportunist and that the Republican Party’s political philosophy now sits just to the left of Pinochet? In fact, every point Curry attempts to make is argument ad hominem. He makes absolutely no attempt to defend his party from Crist’s allegation that the party has strayed too far rightward — and that, of course, is because he can’t.
You know who has said almost the exact same thing as Crist? Jeb Bush — not exactly a guy ready to flee the GOP for points leftward. Curry, and other party apparatchiks like him, have to tear down and insult anyone who points out that the Republican Party has veered too far rightward (or in the case of Bush, offer only uncomfortable silence) because the position in which the party now finds itself is totally untenable. It’s official party platform agrees with Todd Akin. It is a Neanderthal party, appealing only to a few weirdos, and what popularity it does enjoy now is only due to the desperation of the times — a desperation that was, Republican-leaning voters must remember, almost entirely caused by the depredations of the very party they’re now considering supporting.
Curry’s disgusting politicization of Tropical Storm Isaac aside, he’s right about one thing — Charlie Crist is a political opportunist. That’s one of the reasons I’ve referred to him as Big Slick as far back as 2006. But Crist is right, too — the Republican Party has strayed so far rightward that it now features politicians and supports policies completely antithetical to rational thought.