(In the interest of full disclosure, let me say right off the top that I am a Florida native. Born, raised and still live here. I love this state and can remember when you could still see the ocean from Collins Avenue. And I have seen governors, Senators and all manner of politician come and go. This IS Florida, after all. Oh, I am registered No Party Affiliation. I vote my conscience. Party affiliation is not a factor to me.)
So Charlie Crist is going to break the shackles of the almost incestuous 2-party system in Florida and run as an independent. On his own record, without the big hitters coming in for him. Without the giant money people and without the largess of this state's remarkably corrupt and self-centered 2 political parties. About time someone stepped out.
Needless to say, the recriminations flew in from both parties almost immediately. And on a vileness scale of 1 to 10, most were 12's. The Democrats accused Charlie of trying to steal their voters. Their voters? They own them? Some kind of blood pact perhaps? More on that in a bit. They said he was pretending to be one of them just to win. The Dems also tried to pretend that Charlie never once agreed with them, which is ironic since Crist's GOP primary opponent - Marco Rubio - has successfully overtaken him by saying just that. Democrats quickly made it clear that nobody could help or show support for Charlie and any that did would be fired - or in the case of elected Democrats, given the old Lieberman Treatment.
By the way, this is one where the Democrats are the innovators. Tossing good candidates and office holders under the bus to satisfy the extreme left. Like little children with matches, they never seem to learn that they get burned every time.
The GOP prohibited anyone working for them or volunteering for them to help Crist. Phrases like, "...well, it is obvious his first loyalty is not to the party," were very common along with the too tired "Republican in Name Only." OK, I can see the don't help the opponent thing. Makes some sense. But the loyalty thing? His first loyalty is supposed to be the the state and the people - not the dumb party. And the RINO line. Seriously, is there some kind of entry qualification to be an actual Republican? Does the "big tent" have an entry minimum?
The GOP has now taken to catering to the extreme right. They obviously do not remember that every time the Dems did this, it cost them. I am guessing knowledge of political history is not on the GOP entry qualification form.
My favorite is both sides declaring Charlie to be an unpopular governor. Funny, because almost every Floridian I know likes the guy. Thinks he has done a good job. Most folks think he has come down on the side of the people regardless of the party's position repeatedly. He supported the stimulus because Florida needed the money.
This is the Republican governor of Florida that called the FBI in to investigate spending irregularities at the Florida GOP - which was being run by his longtime friend, Jim Greer. Now that is actual governance. Impressive, too.
Some said he called them in to embarrass Rubio, whose name came up in the whole credit card thing. Probably not. First off, Rubio still has some explaining to do on those charges and he should also have to explain why, on expenses that were paid by the party and the state due to "accidental filing," he chose to reimburse the party and not the state, which needs every dime. I guess his first loyalty is pretty obvious.
Crist also negotiated a deal with the with the Seminoles to get a cut of their gaming profits even though the GOP led legislature and GOP Attorney General were opposed. Why. Well, the state needed the money and the Seminoles, who already had the gaming licenses were offering hundreds of millions of dollars. He fought the legislature and Attorney General (who wants to be governor by the way) and eventually got everyone to the negotiating table and got a deal. Signed it just this week. More money for the state without raising taxes. Republican enough? Apparently not.
Charlie also told the self-proclaimed fiscally responsible (they aren't) GOP led Florida legislature that they could not dip into dedicated trust funds to balance the budget. That money has a purpose and he would not let them reroute it to hide their bad judgement. He also routinely vetoes their little unnecessary pet projects.
Now, to be fair, I think Jeb Bush was an outstanding governor for this state. Except for a couple of issues, he did us right. Saw this state through 9 hurricanes in 2 years and never once did we whimper for help. He often stood against his party, and more than once, his brother George. With few exceptions, he acted in the best interest of Florida.
In the interest of balance, let's spend a minute on the Democratic candidates. Won't need much more. There are actually 2. Kendrick Meek, who poorly represented me in Congress is the Florida Democratic Party's choice. He has an opponent, but in true Florida Dem fashion, he is being squeezed out. That would be former Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre. It is a shame the Dems are so short sighter. Ferre was a good mayor and a good guy. He would be a very good Senator.
But the lords of the Florida Democratic machine have spoked and Kendrick gets the nod. Meek announced he would vote for Health care before there was even a first draft of the first bill. He voted for TARP. He is a pure party line guy and therefore useless to me, and most likely the rest of the nation. We don't need another blind, deaf voting robot in Congress. Meek needs to go home to his mother - a great woman and one of the great leaders this state has ever had - and learn about governance and not party loyalty. he needs to learn that people and not platforms come first.
On the GOP side, we have Rubio. The former Florida House Speaker who rammed through massive tax cuts without matching spending cuts. The Speaker who oversaw the conversion of state run Citizen's Property Insurance from the insurer of last resort the the state run insurer of first choice. Yep. A lot of Floridians now have RubioPlan Homeowner's policies. One really big hurricane and Florida is financially toast.
To overtake Crist, Rubio just kept using a photo of Charlie embracing Obama. Used all of the tired talking points about working with the enemy and so on. And it worked. Of course it worked. Why? Because he catered to the extreme right of the party - those with the biggest anger. Great campaign strategy, but bad governance policy.
I will take one Rubio issue away from the Dems. They have a problem with Marco getting a plum job at Florida International University after steering millions to the school. I don't because the school is in his former district as are a lot of the students and any university would want a former high ranking elected official on staff. It is actually good for the school, which serves a lot of South Florida kids with a quality education.
Back to the core issue here. The decrepit, corrupt, failing 2 party system. At the core of America's problems lies the 2 parties. They are so caught up in winning the next election that they have totally abandoned the people. All either party gives a hoot about is winning at any - and I mean any - cost. Both parties cater to the extremes, or as they euphemistically call it, the base. And the primary system, at least here in Florida, is designed to offer up the most electable and not the most capable. Often the best choice is not available come the general election.
The parties regard registered voters as property. Both the Florida Dems and GOP refer to "their voters," as if there is some kind of contractual agreement when you register to vote. Actually, the national parties do the same. But they tend to tilt heavily to the extremes of their crowd and just assume everyone else is along for the ride. They openly despise folks that vote for the other party in general elections. Phrases like, "traitor to the party," and "RINO," are too commonly used and too casually used. See, if you are a registered Republican or a registered Democrat, they just assume you will vote for their ticket. Because they think they own you. Because to the party leaders, your loyalty is to them first and not America first. Because their loyalty is to the party first and America second. Listen to them. Party this, party that. Other party always bad. Blah, blah, blah.
Like in this Senate race. The better choices would be Crist or Ferre. Both have excellent records in elective office and both have reputations for true bipartisanship - something neither Meek or Rubio even pretends to know. And until today, we were going to be stuck with that. Until Charlie, acting on what he thinks best serves Florida, took the chance and walked away from the parties. Personally, I intend to vote for him unless one of the others can prove himself the better candidate for Florida, and not the national party agenda.
While working on this, I noticed an interesting ballot item coming up in California. I know, California. But sometimes, they do have good ideas. California Lt. Governor Abel Maldonado is pushing proposition 14. Open primaries. And the top 2 vote getters advance to the general election.
I like this. It eliminates the primaries being all about the extreme right or left (depending on the party) wings and serving up the least desirable. It opens up the field to all evenly. I am sure that both Republicans and Democrats will disagree with me here, but you would expect them to fear the demise of their control over the ballot. At the very least, it deserves a serious look. It has to be better than what we have now. Because what we have now would force me to choose between Meek and Rubio - 2 seriously unqualified candidates with nothing of their own and no concern for their would be constituents.
Come 11/2/2010, vote the lot of them out. All of them. Let's really send a message to the parties that they will not forget. Let's make them take notice of us, the actual people. The governed. The ignored.