By JOE HARRIS
Walk with me, if you will, through the fields of my political imagination, while we analyze if former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist’s endorsement on Sunday of President Obama’s re-election campaign gives us a window into what turns him on. Although “comeback” is on the lips of many observers, the first word to pop into my mind is “punishment,” followed by “masochist,” and an image of the Once-and-[He Hopes]-Future- Governor playing a B&D/S&M scene with political operatives from both major parties.
The Republicans have already talked about Crist’s endorsement in the same terminology a dominatrix might use to scold a naughty businessman during a lunchtime quickie. Florida GOP chairman Lenny Curry slammed the former governor as “a self-centered career politician,” “repugnant,” “selfish,” and “looking after his own interests,” and then verbally spanked him, adding, “in spite of an approaching hurricane, no less!”
The notion of Crist as a “political masochist” seeking release through punishment is only heightened (exponentially) with the thought of how DEMOCRATS will go after him once his plans are known. It’s a pretty safe bet that Crist’s move was timed to maximize the media attention, and is another major step by the once-popular politician to crawl up from the ash heap of history towards rebirth as a Democrat and a return to competitive politics. It also increases the buzz to a fever pitch concerning Crist’s intentions to run for governor in 2014, or other elected office—but this time as a Democrat. You’ll have a chance to see his “audition tape” next week, when he addresses the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Republicans will have a field day condemning a recycled Crist, attacking him like they did John Kerry as a flipflopper, but also as a party traitor, and a collaborator with the hated Occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. They have already pointed to his abandonment of his previous positions, including his 2010 admonition against Obama that, “I don’t agree with the guy on hardly anything he does,” his self-description as a “pro-life” “Ronald Reagan Republican,” his opposition to ObamaCare, and his “cheerful” support of a state constitutional amendment banning marriage equality.
And the Republican Party “talking points” actually suggest, “You should take every opportunity with the media to remind Floridians that Crist has made a career out of bashing the Democrat Party and everything President Obama stands for.” Imagine how much hay other Democratic candidates will make of that when they stand against Crist during a future primary.
In the words of the Florida GOP’s Curry, “Charlie Crist has demonstrated, yet again, that his political ambition will always come first.”
For his part, Crist has been invoking the memory and paraphrasing the words of Ronald Reagan, suggesting that he didn’t leave the GOP in 2010, but that rather the party left him, by embracing extreme positions and beliefs. The GOP talking points try to blunt that defense by noting that the ex-governor jumped the party’s ship for an electoral opportunity, and “left because polls showed he had a better chance to win the [U.S.] Senate seat as an Independent.”
Does Crist have a right to a “second act” in politics? Sure he does. But Republicans have a legitimate right to cast him as an opportunist—a professional politician who is just looking for an elected office to occupy. South Floridians have seen this before (sorry, Jim Lewis). My own fascination with train wrecks leaves me wondering what kind of punishment the members of his own (new) party have planned for Crist: Florida politics’ Once-and-Future whipping.