RE: Charlie Crist

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist has realized he’s probably going to lose the Republican primary in his bid for the U.S. Senate, so he’s dropping out to run as an independent.

Because I’m such a giving person, and because I’m moving in a month, I, Radley Balko, will now tap my decade of life in Washington, D.C.  to dispense some free political advice to both major parties and their zombie supporters about how they should react to this news.

For the Democrats: You should talk about how this is a warning sign that extremists are taking over your opponents’ party. Say something like, “If a moderate, sensible public servant like Charlie Crist can be driven out of his own party by these fringe elements, I really worry about our democracy.” If you want to dial up the rhetoric, say something about how Crist’s opponent has been driven up in the polls almost entirely by crazy, angry, possibly seditious protesters of the current administration. If you need help articulating your talking points, see what the GOP was saying about the Joe Lieberman/Ned Lamont race in 2006.

For the Republicans: You should talk about how Charlie Crist is selfish and arrogant, and that if he were a decent man he would respect the primary system. Talk about how he no longer represents GOP values, and how he’s wrong on the issues that are most important to the party today. Say something like, “An honorable man would step aside and respect the wishes of Florida’s Republican voters.” If you need help articulating your talking points, see what the Democrats were saying about the Joe Lieberman/Ned Lamont race in 2006.

For both parties: I know what you’re thinking. “Are the American people really so stupid and blinded by partisanship that they won’t realize we were making precisely the opposite arguments just four years ago?” The answer is: Yes! Yes they are!

I suggest one of two strategies. The first is that you simply ignore your hypocrisy. The public pretty much expects it of you, anyway. The only people likely to call you on your inconsistency are your opponents (who don’t matter) and possibly the media (whom most voters hate even more than they hate politicians). On the off chance you have a molecule or two of honor in your bones and can’t just flip on a dime . . . well first you’re probably in the wrong profession. But here’s an alternate strategy: Come up with some vaguely plausible—but upon any serious examination transparently lame—way of distinguishing your position on Crist from the opposite position you took on Lieberman.

For example, a Republican might say, “But Lieberman was already in the Senate, so he owed it to the people of Connecticut to fight for his seat so the state wouldn’t lose his seniority, experience, and clout on important committees!” A Democrat might say, “Yeah, but Lieberman actually lost in the primary. Crist is bowing out of the primary to run as an independent before he actually lost. So he’s not really bucking the will of the voters the way Lieberman did!”

If all else fails, just say, “The difference is that Lieberman/Crist is/was right, and Crist/Lieberman is/was wrong.”

To your supporters, this will actually sound principled!

So are you both ready? Let the rudderless, hacktastic posturing begin!

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38 Responses to “RE: Charlie Crist”

  1. #1 |  Dave Krueger | 

    I can’t believe you’re so unpatriotically attacking our great American two party system like that. On the other hand, if I were a Democrat, I would agree wholeheartedly with your assessment of those despicable shallow Republicans while calling you all manner of vile names for slandering the Democrats.

    And vice versa if I were a Republican.

  2. #2 |  Marv Hamlish | 

    Wow the American people are stupid! I don’t agree with that. Occasionally we can be fooled, but we usually get it right in the end.

  3. #3 |  blueGrass | 

    Tell us how you really feel…

    Well done!

  4. #4 |  Jason | 

    Maybe the Republicans can borrow the Democrats’ ads against Joe Lieberman and just put Crist’s name over Lieberman’s name.

  5. #5 |  Kevin | 

    God, I love the two party system…

  6. #6 |  ravenshrike | 

    Did Lieberman swear to everybody and his mother that he would remain a Democrat less than a week before going Independent? Cause Crist did.

  7. #7 |  jrl | 

    ravenshrike: QED much? I hope you’re joking.

  8. #8 |  donttread | 

    So would you also argue that defections from the former Soviet Union were the equivalent of those rare cases in the other direction?

    The question should be which party (even marginally) best represents the cause of freedom. If you believe the Republicans are better, defections from the Republicans are bad, defections from the Democrats are good.

    You insist on taking the position that both parties are equivalent, I believe the events of the last two years have clearly shown that the Democrats are far more statist than the admittedly inconsistent and unprincipled Republicans.

  9. #9 |  Joey Maloney | 

    So it is your position that neither party is/was right? Or both are/were? Or it’s impossible to know? Or what?

    I know it gets more and more difficult to remember in this media environment, but there is a difference between truth and truthiness.

  10. #10 |  CharlesWT | 

    “…, but we usually get it right in the end…”

    …whenever the political class does anything.

  11. #11 |  Marc | 

    I thought the Democrats were stupid in 2006 to try and knock off Lieberman (though after his recent hypocrisy on healthcare, I wish he had lost, it’s kind of amazing that it was someone like him that killed universal healthcare), and I think every time the Republicans purge their ranks for “purity,” they’re stupid. I don’t particularly like extremists of either side.

    That said, I consider myself a moderate conservative, and maybe because of that I just haven’t noticed an equal amount of it on the Democratic side due to a lack of caring. But holy crap, the GOP has been clearing out its ranks of anyone who isn’t batshit insane like their lives depend on it for the last several years! The democrats still have the “blue dogs” or whatever. Who do we have? Lincoln Chaffee mentioned that he and the other moderate conservatives in the senate used to meet up together, but by the time of his unseating, there were only about ~5 such people remaining, including himself. The insanity of the right just seems far more prevalent than the left. The things they say during the primaries just to spur their “base” would be hilarious if it weren’t for the fact that one of those people who didn’t actually raise hand to say he agreed with evolution in the ’08 presidential primary could be the next leader! Hell, look how they view a true conservative like Ron Paul, they always either try to quietly dismiss him and ignore what he said since they have no answer for it, or they outright portray him as crazy, just for asking really good questions like, “If we’re the party of fiscal responsibility, how do you explain X, Y, and Z?”

  12. #12 |  Stephen | 

    Only difference I see is that Crist is not going to win and he is in fact throwing it to the democrats. At least Lieberman won.

  13. #13 |  Eric | 

    One reason I think Americans reject soccer (or at least reject it compared to the rest of the world) is the flopping. If a player gets even barely touched he often falls to the ground dramatically and rolls around as though he’s in agony. If he doesn’t get a card, he pops up and keeps going down the field. We don’t have that tradition in any of our sports, so it looks like the phoniness that it is and we disapprove. I was complaining about flopping to a French guy recently and he was defending it as a critical part of the art that is soccer. He said he understands it’s horseshit but can appreciate when a player sells a fake injury to draw a foul.

    I thought recently that this is essentially the state of political discussion these days. But for whatever reason, most people fully accept that politicians are being sincere when they express their outrage or surprise at the issue of the day, even though they get past it as soon as it isn’t a poll-worthy event.

  14. #14 |  tb | 

    Marv Hamlish,

    ccasionally we can be fooled, but we usually get it right in the end.

    Yeah, right in the back end…

  15. #15 |  ClassAction | 


    I actually did a little LOL at that.

  16. #16 |  Rhayader | 

    @Eric #13: Hey totally agree about the soccer flopping — the sport simply sucks — but I wouldn’t go so far as to say it doesn’t happen here. I see it all the time in basketball, and freaking AJ Pierzynski has made an art form out of dancing around like a tipped ball has hit his foot instead of the plate.

    But yes, soccer players are the unquestioned champions of falling down like the pussies they are if they think it’ll catch a ref’s eye.

  17. #17 |  albatross | 


    If I argue that something (say, permanent no-trial detention for terrorism suspects we know we could never convict in a fair court, covering up war crimes, massive domestic spying, or sweetheart deals for well-connected donors) is wrong when done by Republicans, but not by Democrats, I’m exposing my own hypocrisy. This says nothing about whether the Democrats or Republicans are the good guys, or even whether there are any good guys available.

    The fact is, most politicians and pundits would tell you the sky was orange and flowers had legs if they thought it would benefit them or their party. Pointing this out is worthwhile, precisely because it fights that stupid model of the world in which one party wears the white hats and the other wears the black hats.

  18. #18 |  David | 

    No fair, you cheated by looking at their reactions to Specter!

  19. #19 |  wtflol | 

    I am a Florida voter and will likely vote for Christ for the following reasons, in no particular order:

    Rubio voted to give Jeb Bush the authority to stop Terry Schiavo from being taken off the tubes.

    Crist vetoed Senate Bill 6 which would have made kids’ test scores the primary factor in teacher salaries.; Rubio supported it.

    Crist singaled he’d rescind off shore drilling.

    Giuliani and Cheney endorsed Rubio.

    I am sick of voting for Republicans, and physically unable to vote for a Democrat.

    Christ is not perfect, and he is a bit of a flip flopper and opportunist, but I think he’s a rational guy who would be the best of the lot. If not, I’ll vote for someone else in 6 years, if I still live in this crazy bizarro state.

  20. #20 |  jrb | 

    After reading Marv Hamlish’s comment, I really expected more sodomy jokes than the few on here now.

  21. #21 |  flukebucket | 

    and right there next to the post is a grinning Charlie saying “Put People Before Politics”

    and there, next to it, is the bumper sticker for out of power Republicans saying “vote no for a change”

    Damn I love it.

  22. #22 |  Mattocracy | 

    #11 | Marc |

    I agree with your assessment. I appreciate the fact that Ron Paul and the C4L is trying to reform the GOP, but the GOP doesn’t want to be reformed. The NeoCons are still the majority and the don’t want any non-NeoCons sharing their space. Anyone who doesn’t hate gays, isn’t pro war, pro torture, and doesn’t believe in their interpretation of the Constitution isn’t tolerated. They’re so fanatical about it that they don’t care if causes them to lose every election in the end. I would say the more they lose, the more small tent party they become.

  23. #23 |  marco73 | 

    The part of soccer that really turns me off to the sport is when the player is carted off the field on a stretcher, play stops for several minutes (although the clock continues to run), and then like Lazarus they rise off their death bed to sprint down the field. Then at the end of the match, the clock has expired but the officials keep some sort of secret extra time on the field. First couple times I saw that, I just thought, “the officials must be getting rich off the bribes.”
    Oh yeah, and as a Floridian, I got to see the local news shows last night and this morning. The political analysts were parroting exactly the lines Radley documented above. They must think we really are that stupid.

  24. #24 |  Chuchundra | 

    As a life-long Democrat, both the Lieberman and Crist independent runs strike me as sore-loserism. If run in your party’s primary, you implicitly agree to abide by the results of the election. It’s not fair to get a second bite at the apple.

  25. #25 |  jb | 

    Personally, I think they’re both right. Elections are about choices–if Connecticuters didn’t like Lieberman, they would have voted in Lamont or whoever the Republican was. Lieberman was an arrogant prick to give them that choice, but he wasn’t wrong to. Crist is being similar.

    In short, it is not wrong to show greater loyalty to a political party than to oneself.

    About Crist, I am generally of the opinion that Rubio’s success against him was less about Republicans being “We’re extremists, you’re a moderate, go away” and more about them being “We like you both, why do you make us choose, keep being governor.”

  26. #26 |  IrishMike | 

    Not sure where the soccer thing came from but since it’s here –

    From Rhayader
    “but I wouldn’t go so far as to say it doesn’t happen here. I see it all the time in basketball”

    True but when did flopping in the NBA really become a trend? Answer: when the Europeans (and South Americans too, i.e. soccer friendly continents) started landing in the NBA in large numbers. Guys who grrew up playing and watching soccer and the associated flopping. Who was the first famous flopper? Vlade Divac – part of the intial Euro wave. Look closely at who flops and it’s much more likely to be someone named Ginobli or Gasol than James or Wade.

    Okay on the actual topic. Isn’t it amazing that a Democrat or Republican who begins to lose his/her base and fears losing a primary can go independent and almost certainly win? Is that not an indictment of the two party system? In the two party system the firnges rule. If everyone ran as an independent the people in the middle would rule. Which IMO would be a great thing.

  27. #27 |  Michael Yuri | 

    re: soccer

    I think bad referees bear at least part of the blame.

    The last MLS game I went to started out as a pretty clean game.

    Then this happened: Blue player had the ball. Red player ran in and literally shoved him off the ball with both hands, stealing the ball and sending Blue stumbling. This was directly in front of the ref. Blue — like a respectable athlete — remained on his feet and immediately charged back in to try to recover the ball. The ref called nothing.

    The players, realizing that the refs weren’t calling anything, started getting progressively rougher and rougher, until we were watching one of the dirtiest games I’ve ever seen. Then when this started getting out of control, players started taking dives. The refs finally started making some calls, and then the rest of the game degenerated into a flop-fest where free kicks were handed out more on the basis of how dramatic the dive was rather than whether a foul had actually occurred. The game ended up being shaped largely by the refs’ arbitrary calls: penalty kicks, yellow cards, red card ejections.

    I really believe that if the refs had started calling fouls right at the beginning it could have been a good game.

    Does this mesh with anyone else’s observations?

  28. #28 |  Bryan | 

    #24 — Yes, because the two party system should have a strangle hold on the political system, and no one should be elected unless they defer to those parties. Crist seems to forget that democracy is about protecting the parties in power, not giving the public the option to elect “whoever” they want.

    And your argument that Crist shouldn’t run as an independent because he participated in the Republican primary first is also right on. I mean, we’ve all seen how easy it is to be elected to anything as an independent, without trying to go the two party route first. Anyone that doesn’t take that option from the beginning should absolutely forfeit the right to run as an independent forever.

    Some would say your argument is that Crist signed away his soul to the GOP should not get it back. Not me though. You are brilliant.

  29. #29 |  Pianoman | 

    Rudderless? Not me no sir. Never been more certain of things in my life.

    All you have/had to do is/was vote Democrat in both cases. Problem solved.

  30. #30 |  Devin McCullen | 

    Well, since Radley has already declared that any attempt to show a difference is completely lame & meaningless, I don’t know why I’m bothering. But just for fun:

    1) In 2006, were there any other Democratic candidates who got seriously challenged from the Left? This year, you’ve got Bennett in Utah and possibly McCain in serious trouble from the right. I think it’s hard to argue that the Tea Party groups aren’t having a bigger impact than the left-wing groups that were fighting Lieberman.

    2) We’ll have to see how it plays out this year, but the Democratic Party in 2006 was not nearly so monolithic against Lieberman as you’re portraying it. Democratic activits & online commentators, sure. But I think there will be a substantial difference in what Harry Reid was saying in 2006 & what John Boehner will be saying this year.

    3) Similarly, for all of the noise that was made at the time, the Democrats have basically let Lieberman back in. I have serious doubts that the Republicans would do the same if Crist wins. It is undoubtedly true that they’re stronger about enforcing party discipline most of the time. But we don’t really know.

    And yeah, I’m partisan & probably biased. But I do think there is at least somewhat of a difference between making an independent run before the primary & deciding to do it after you lose. I’m also not completely biased – as a Dem in NJ, I thought the Toricelli/Lautenberg business in 2002 was total crap, and didn’t vote for Lautenberg in 2002 or 2008 because of it.

  31. #31 |  Radley Balko | 

    Pretty sure Blanche Lincoln is getting challenged from the left, isn’t she?

  32. #32 |  johnl | 

    Crist is one of America’s dirtiest politicians. The GOP should point out all his dirty deals as AG to make Florida a crime haven. For example, Fashon Rock. See Les Henderson’s (self published) Under Investigation: The Inside Story of the Florida Attorney General’s Investigation of Wilhelmina Scouting Network, the Largest Model and Talent Scam in America.

  33. #33 |  Devin McCullen | 

    Yes, Lincoln’s getting challenged from the left. I was just comparing the D’s in 2006 with the R’s in 2010, but it’s a fair point.

  34. #34 |  J sub D | 

    For both parties: I know what you’re thinking. “Are the American people really so stupid and blinded by partisanship that they won’t realize we were making precisely the opposite arguments just four years ago?” The answer is: Yes! Yes they are!

    For the win.

  35. #35 |  RD | 

    Re: #8: Democrats may have statist tendencies but they’re not batshit crazy like the Republicans (who are borderline treasonous to America, seem like they want to resurrect the Confederacy, have no problem with insinuating *wink wink* that our president isn’t “one of us” and thus are clearly laying the groundwork for assassination, and on and on).

  36. #36 |  supercat | 

    //That said, I consider myself a moderate conservative…//

    On many issues, ‘compromise positions’ really aren’t. If the Democrats want to spend $10B on a program whose actual effects will be the the opposite of the stated goals, and the ‘hard right conservative’ position is that the program should be killed because it’s counterproductive, what good can come from a ‘compromise’ position of spending $1B on the program? A ‘moderate’ Republican who takes such a position allows the Democrats to direct the argument toward the cost of the program (and accuse the Republicans who oppose it of being skinflints), and makes it very hard for Republicans to focus the argument on the fact that the program would be harmful even if it cost nothing.

  37. #37 |  Billy | 

    Crist and Lieberman are not at all equivalent. Lieberman fucking endorsed McCain for President, for god sake! He nearly wrecked Healthcare Reform, he’s MUCH further from being a Dem than Crist is from being a Republican. Although the *mechanism* these two pols are using to get elected/re-elected are similar, their *situations* are VERY DIFFERENT. As political analysis, this article is an epic fail.

  38. #38 |  5-2-2010 The Day in Review | F i a t Lux | 

    […] Balko expects the Charlie Crist/Marco Rubio divide to play out similarly to the Joe Lieberman/Ned Lamont one a […]