Monday, April 19, 2010

Charlie Crist's Deadline

'The absence of party affiliation is no guarantee of the absence of ugly politicking. If anything, the reverse is true.'
The Pensacola News Journal on Sunday editorially urged Florida governor Charlie Crist to run for Florida's vacant U.S. Senate seat as an independent. Noting that he faces an April 30 deadline to withdraw from the G.O.P. primary the newspaper argues "for the good of the state, shouldn't Crist and [Marco] Rubio have a chance to face off in November — the state's political Super Bowl date — instead of in preseason?"
In Florida's closed-primary system, registered Democrats and independent voters do not have the chance to vote for or against Crist. Yet Crist and Rubio are the political heavyweights, and they should meet in the finals.
Once again, weak sports metaphors are invoked to distort political reality by making it resemble a horse race (or a football game, or a boxing match) without regard to the long-term policy consequences. The PNJ's proposal is tantamount to advocating the defeat of Democratic senatorial candidate Kendrick Meek even before he's had a chance to introduce himself to the voters.

As the News Journal must know, recent polls suggest Crist has a realistic chance of winning the general election only if he draws a boatload of votes from the Democratic candidate. This is because it looks like he'll get almost none from Republicans:
Even in a three-way match-up with Crist running as an independent, Meek comes in second with 25% of the vote. Rubio leads with 45% support, while Crist earns 22%.
To be sure, other journalists also are applauding the idea. Take Broward County's Sun Sentinel columnist Michael Mayo, for example. He hauls the PNJ's "it-would-be- good- for- Florida-voters" theme one step farther by imagining a Crist win in November:
If he wins as an independent, Crist could find himself the most powerful senator in the country.

Democrats now have a 57-41 edge over Republicans in the Senate, and there are two independents who align with the Democrats, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

With 36 Senate seats up for grabs in November, Democrats and Republicans could end up virtually deadlocked for the majority.

Could you imagine if there was a 49-48 split and Crist were one of three independents?

Anything Florida wanted, Florida would get.
Almost immediately, however, Mayo ruins his own fantasy by impliedly having 'independent' U.S. Senator Crist sell off the sand on Pensacola Beach to the oil corporations:
How about this idea: Our junior senator could broker a deal where all Florida homeowners get affordable windstorm coverage through national catastrophe insurance. In exchange, we allow expanded oil drilling off Florida's shores.
Mayo's wet dream offers an unintentional caution about the naive fantasy of an "independent" politician. The absence of party affiliation is no guarantee of the absence of ugly politicking. If anything, the reverse is true. A senator without affiliation with one of the two major parties is like Edward Everett Hale's "Man Without a Country." Joe Lieberman's deceitful run as an "Independent" is a useful template. It has made him, to be charitable, "a little crazy."

The reality is that every "independent" in the U.S. Senate is impelled by the circumstance of Senate rules and traditions to caucus with one or the other of the two major parties. Even if Crist were to win the senate race as an Independent, he'd have to huddle either with the Republican or the Democratic Party. As with Lieberman, that means either being completely marginalized (much as has happened to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a more reliable Democratic vote than most other Democratic senators) or forever living on the edge of betraying one party by flirting with the other.

That might be entertaining. It might sell more newspapers. But if Crist takes advice from the likes of Michael Mayo and the Pensacola News Journal, it would be terrible for the nation as well as Pensacola Beach.

Democratic senate candidate Kendrick Meek is a fine legislator and a courageous man. However, as Stuart Rothenberg says, he was "handed the Democratic nomination without a fight largely because Crist looked invincible when the race was taking shape."

He's been doing better than expected in the fund raising derby. He even polls fairly well, only 6 points behind, in a 2-man race against Rubio -- and most Floridians hardly know him yet. Even in today's over-heated partisan atmosphere he has a legitimate chance to win.

A Crist independent candidacy, however, would doom Meek's chances. Meek and Crist would split the sane vote while Rubio cleans up among the chronically angry old farts, demented paranoids, racists, and those who want to protect Wall Street bankers so they can continue schtupping main street America with toxic investments and paying themselves outrageous bonuses.

In the loopy political atmosphere we see all around us today, the only honest thing for Charlie Crist to do is to think inside the box -- one or the other box. Either run as the moderate Republican he's always been -- or switch parties and run for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate.
minor edit 4-19 am

Dept. of Further Amplification
4-19 pm

Marcos Moulitsas, writing as Kos, has his "fingers crossed," hoping for Crist to make "an independent bid." Presumably, for different reasons than those expressed by the News Journal.


Sivicus said...

I bet my credit default swaps against Goldman Sachs' that Good Time Charlie runs as an Indy.

Anonymous said...

I don't have any credit default swaps to bet but I am with you, Sivicus.

Run, Charilie, an Indy!