On Crist And Other Turncoats

I’m running as a Republican. I’m very proud to be from the party of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, others that really have stood up for the principles of our party, like Ronald Reagan.This is a great party. It has a great future. We have a great opportunity to win in November. It’s important that we put a candidate up that can win in November.

Today, it appears Florida Governor Charlie Crist will announce he’s decided that rather than bowing out gracefully or soldiering on to defeat in the GOP primary at former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio’s hands, he’ll continue running as an independent – turning a two-way race in which Rubio is all but assured to clobber Democrat Congressman Kendrick Meek into a three-way race where the outcome is less certain.

Six weeks ago Crist swore he wouldn’t switch parties. Apparently he’s figured that his political ambitions are more important to him than his personal integrity.

Crist’s party switch probably won’t affect Rubio’s election chances; he’s likely to win anyway, just not by the wide margin he expected against Meek, a very weak far-left candidate with a limited appeal outside of the black community. What the switch represents is a devastating blow to the credibility of “centrist” or “moderate” or “country-club” Republicans, because it’s another in a long string of examples of disloyalty, opportunism, vapidity and weakness among that set.

Crist joins the ignominious club of GOP turncoats like Arlen Specter, Lincoln Chaffee and Jim Jeffords, who when their supporters judged them as having displayed poor performance as Republican elected officials decided rather than to accept such electoral judgement to bolt the party and decry conservatives as “intolerant” or “out of the mainstream.” In no case which comes to mind have any of Crist’s predecessors found purchase in such a decision; Chaffee and Jeffords found themselves quickly consigned to irrelevance (Chaffee was beaten by Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse in 2006 before switching parties in 2007), while Specter looks likely to lose the Democrat primary in Pennsylvania to Joe Sestak this fall.

Of course, last fall’s example of GOP nominee Dede Scozzafava, whose record was far to the left of the party’s mainstream and garnered little support from its voters in the NY-23 Congressional special election before bowing out shortly before Election Day and endorsing Democrat Bill Owens, was another example of “moderate” Republican disloyalty.

Another GOP turncoat, Colin Powell, decried the lack of a “big tent” in the GOP for months prior to the 2008 election before endorsing Barack Obama less than a month before Election Day; Powell had the very candidate he had argued for in John McCain and stabbed McCain in the back anyway. Powell continues to whine about the exclusiveness of the Republican Party to this day, though few outside of the dinosaur media have any interest in what he’s saying.

Crist isn’t the national figure the other turncoats were. Instead, he’s just a silly orange man of dubious sexuality who people now understand will say and do anything for personal gain. He now represents what people cannot stand about politicians. That might be why, as Mark Ambinder reports, Rahm Emmanuel won’t take his call.

Neither will Crist’s donors, as a party switch will almost definitely turn off his money spigot. When Specter turned his coat on the GOP, The Club For Growth engineered a campaign to encourage his Republican donors to demand their money back, and that campaign resulted in an $800,000 hit to his war chest. As evidence of Crist’s calculating style and duplicity, however, Erick Erickson of Redstate.com reports that he’s already committed the bulk of his $7.5 million campaign fund to TV commercials – so rather than honor his donors’ demands for a refund he’s going to bend them over.

The PR value of such a decision isn’t exactly what you’d look for while you’re running for re-election.

So Crist is going to lose, and by November his political career, at least in Florida, will be  over. An interesting sidenote to his run as an independent will be the effect on the Democrats in that state; there is much talk among white monied liberals there about supporting Crist’s candidacy instead of that of Meek, their party’s nominee, and should that materialize one wonders whether Florida’s black community shouldn’t interpret that lack of support as racism – after all, Crist’s newfound support from left-wingers who previously despised him for the (faux) conservatism he espoused seems peculiar when he’s the only white candidate in a field which also includes an African-American who has voted for every leftist measure Nancy Pelosi could offer to the House, and a young, charismatic Hispanic. Should support Meek expects as the Democrat nominee melt to Crist, disappointment among black Florida Democrats would be well-warranted – and eventual recriminations hardly unexpected.

But if Crist is a loser, those who supported him prematurely and otherwise are subject to that designation as well.

John Cornyn’s role in Crist’s campaign deserves major scrutiny. Cornyn, the Texas Senator in charge of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, backed Crist long ago and has been twisting in the wind ever since Rubio’s campaign began making  cole slaw of him. The NRSC’s record of endorsing and supporting squishy candidates like Crist in GOP primaries is a clear one; beyond the fundamental stupidity of involving itself in Republican primaries, the idea is to get Republicans elected as Republicans who will stay Republicans – not to use Republican donor money to elect people who aren’t committed to the party. Cornyn has much to answer for upon Crist’s party-switch; he looks like a fool today.

So does Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose tepid leadership and give-ground style on Capitol Hill is perfectly epitomized by his appearence on Fox News Sunday a few days ago, in which he “prospectively” bashed Crist for an independent run and yet refused to rescind his previous endorsement. McConnell comes off as a reasonable fellow, but to have endorsed Crist in the first place showed poor judgement and to have continued in that endorsement when Crist began making noises of an independent run shows an almost willful blindness.

It’s long past time that the GOP recognize it must be conservative if it expects to govern. Unprincipled candidates like Crist need to be identified before money and support is wasted on them.

There is nothing wrong with a “Big Tent” philosophy. But “moderates” who aren’t even sure they’re on the Republican team certainly shouldn’t be in control of the party – membership does not equal leadership. Time and again, RINO’s have demonstrated themselves happy to throw the party under the bus to suit their own political ends, and time and again the only winners in such situations are Democrats. While Crist’s independent run might appear to have a happier ending for the GOP, it is yet another example of why traditional conservatism has to be the standard Republican candidates and the party’s leadership must bear.

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