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Conservatives Should Have Seen Crist’s Fall Coming from a Mile Away

Posted By Calvin Freiburger On April 29, 2010 @ 4:00 pm In NewsReal Blog | No Comments

Anakin Skywalker had to become Darth Vader. Charlie Crist was always Charlie Crist.

Florida Governor and Senate candidate Charlie Crist is a Republican conservatives love to hate for his flirtations with liberalism and lack of any core value beyond self-preservation. So it should come as little surprise that, in the face of a primary challenge from rising conservative star Marco Rubio, Crist reportedly plans to run as an independent. At the Daily Beast, Reihan Salam says good riddance to bad rubbish, noting that Crist hasn’t turned to the dark side—he was already there:

Many observers see Charlie Crist as a patron saint of Republican moderation, a sensible pragmatist who has been driven out of his party by frenzied Tea Partiers on a jihad against common sense. Some even suggested that Crist should join the Democrats. This is, in my view, a baseless smear against Democrats, who deserve better than to be associated with the likes of Charlie Crist.

Crist’s flip-flopping is indeed shameless—he’s a double-talking pro-choicer, he sided with Barack Obama on his stimulus plan and later lied about it, and he talks out of both sides of his mouth on health-care reform, as well.  Salam also notes that his defection from the GOP is another example of his principles deficit:

Having released a statement just weeks ago that “He will not run as an Independent or No Party Affiliation,” and accusing the campaign of his GOP rival, Marco Rubio, of “unfounded rumors” that he’d do exactly that, Crist is poised to prove the rumors were entirely true. After insisting that that he was a diehard Republican conservative who’d never abandon his party, after explicitly stating that he would support the winner of the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate even if he lost, Crist is now set to embark on a quixotic crusade to rescue a decades-long political career distinguished first and foremost for its vacuousness and stupidity.

Indeed, in this case the double-standard is so odious that not even professional RINO apologist David Frum can stomach it—yesterday, he announced that, despite the problems “modern-minded Republicans” (whatever that means) had with the “Crist-Rubio revenge drama” and Rubio’s “hard-edged style of politics,” Crist’s fall is bad enough that the Right should rally behind Rubio.

Evidently changing one’s party affiliation is the only unpardonable sin of polite-company conservative theology, an offense against which Crist’s prior record of jettisoning principles for expediency pales in comparison.  Now, I imagine the response would be that, however lacking Crist’s scruples may be, the big picture warranted tolerating them for the sake of keeping a Democrat out of the seat.  But it seems to me that taking a harder line against Crist’s flip-flopping earlier on would have been more prudent, as well as more principled—his reversals should have tipped us off that he was capable of much more betrayal and disappointment, including abandoning his party.

Salam is right:

Charlie Crist’s opponents aren’t paragons of virtue. Both Meek and Rubio have made missteps of their own. But both men are vastly superior to Crist. Meek is, to his credit, a consistent liberal who is willing to support tax increases to fund new spending commitments, which is more than can be said of Crist. Rubio has taken the remarkable step of arguing that Social Security spending needs to be trimmed, a gutsy move for a candidate of any party in Florida. Only one candidate is awe-inspiring in his mendacity, and that is Charlie Crist.

By and large, the Right is still struggling to strike the right balance between principle and practicality, and the prevailing impulse among the center-right elites is to overcorrect in favor of the latter.  Conservatives need to understand that if we put conviction first, the practical tends to fall into place.  Conversely, if we abandon principle for expediency, we can expect to achieve neither.

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Hailing from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Calvin Freiburger is a political science major at Hillsdale College.  He also blogs at the Hillsdale Forum and his personal website, Calvin Freiburger Online.



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