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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Forgiving Crist? That Will Take Work

I have made no secret in the last election cycle about my feelings on Charlie Crist, and believe far too many Democrats were placing disproportionately little blame on his spoiler candidacy putting a Senate seat out of reach for the blue team. Certainly, though, there are more devious figures in Florida politics. The most high-profile is Gov. Rick 'Voldemort' Scott, a man whose private sector experience should have earned him a term in prison, not the governor's mansion. Now, a new poll on the governor's race is making a lot of us do a gut check. The short of it: Crist beats Scott 48-34, if Crist runs as a Democrat. I begin to ask myself, can Florida suffer through another four years with Rick Scott as governor? Scott is extraordinarily unpopular today, but we would all be fools to presume that will be the case in November 2014. Just as I believe Mitt Romney is a fool banking on the economy to crash in order to make Barack Obama vulnerable, I think Democrats have to avoid embracing a similar narrative with Scott. Jobs will certainly come to Florida in coming years, and if anything, Scott's give corporations whatever deregulation they ask for will lead to short-term bumps in the economy, albeit at the expense of our collective fractured soul. But what of Crist? A man famous for his political instincts did serious damage in 2010, not just to his own reputation but in allowing the creation of a narrative that favored a tea party takeover of government in Washington and in Tallahassee. Crist said the Republican Party left him, but his ego made him believe he could stand alone against a two-party system, and he refused the embrace of Democrats, who would have accepted him with welcome arms and shown that the party was a bastion for disenchanted moderates being forcefully kicked out of the GOP's big tent. Will the party do so today? Probably, but no doubt they will feel like the pathetic second choice of a governor jilted by his former base. The poll actually shows Crist does better among Florida Democrats than he fares with independents, much less Republicans. And unlike the Senate race two years ago, and despite sucking the life out of Kendrick Meek's Senate ambitions, Crist wins support from 88 percent of black voters. For now, I will reserve judgment. That is hard for me to do, but I will do my hardy best. The Democratic bench is weak in Florida, but everyone on it deserves consideration. In my opinion, Alex Sink, despite wide derision, ran a pretty solid campaign for a Florida Democrat and barely got swallowed by a Republican wave. Pam Iorio made a string name for herself as a successful mayor of Tampa. Former lawmakers like Rod Smith, Karen Thurman and Jeremy Ring all have sound party credentials and histories of public service. We would do our own ranks a severe disservice by dismissing their candidacies based solely on Crist's celebrity status. But if Crist made the switch to Democrat now, if he spent the next two years fighting for Barack Obama to win Florida, for Democrats to take more seats in the state Legislature, to rebuild a party which has been in tatters for a decade and a half, then Democrats should consider forgiving Crist of his past sins. But he shouldn't get a pass to the big race. He needs to prove he cares more about a set of public principles than his own ambitions. The good news is there is still time to do it, and this poll is probably the first of several offering some incentive. Charlie Crist can be the Democratic nominee, but first he needs to become and publicly commit to being a Democrat.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

At Least Obama Won The Popular Vote

I can't decide if I should be angry or start laughing hysterically about Marco Rubio's suggestion that Barack Obama is the most "Divisive Figure In Modern American History." Here is the full quote via MSNBC: --- "The man who today occupies the White House and is running for president is a very different person," Rubio said at a high-profile GOP fundraiser, where he claimed Obama has abandoned the ideals he ran on in 2008. "We have not seen such a divisive figure in modern American history than we have over the last three and one-half years." --- Rubio, of course, is referring to the only president to come into office with a majority of the popular vote. Of course, to be fair, his remarks does not want to measure Obama's "divisive" quotient based on anything that has happened since the last time all of America weighed in on his job performance. He just wants to say this about a president who, at the moment, seems to be coasting to re-election. Why would I boldly state that? Not so much because of Obama, but because of how much Mitt Romney has completely divided the Republican Party. But never mind that irony. Let's instead look at whether any more figures in modern history have divided America so much as Obama. Let's start with the last president, George W. Bush. That was easy. Oh, do I need to justify that? I would note, then, that the very first vote Marco Rubio ever cast as a member of the Florida Legislature was to cast aside the popular vote in Florida because of the recounts and instead have the Legislature simply award those votes to George W. Bush. The Supreme Court eventually took matters into their own hands in what may call a divisive decision. Then, Bush led a country frightened by 9/11 into an unwarranted war with Iraq. When George W. Bush was heading into re-election, the nation was so divided and the election so close that we didn't have the election settled until the morning after the vote (granted by Bush standards that was pretty rapid). I hope it is some time before the nation becomes as divided as it was during the reign of W. It certainly isn't so divided today, and doubt it will become so any time soon. Then, Obama is also much less divisive than the last Democrat we had in office, Bill Clinton. Now ridiculous justifications aside, Clinton was impeached. He led a nation that couldn't bear the thought of the White House and Congress being run by the same party. And the last president before that? The nation turned on George H.W. Bush to the point they voted him out of office. But if we start modern history two years ago, when Marco Rubio became the poster child for a political party eating itself, and when Marco Rubio won a Senate seat without winning the popular vote in Florida... Oh wait. There were decisive political figures that year too.