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 Talk about how he no longer represents GOP values, and how he’s wrong on the issues that are most important to the party today.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!