Friday, April 20, 2007

Charlie Crist: a Wolf in Progressive Clothing

Over at RockridgeNation there is a posting up about Florida's new and so far hugely popular Governor, Charlie Crist, entitled A John Lennon Conservative?

As a resident of Charlie Crist's hometown, I can bring an up close and personal perspective. I have known Charlie Crist for over 20 years. One need make no mistake about Charlie - he is a consummate politician. I think he is doing these "progressive" things because he does believe in them. But I'm not so sure he believes in them in and of themselves, but as in where the political advantage lies.

Florida is one of those states that really makes people shake their heads, especially progressives. Florida is about 4 states in one. There is the very progressive Southeast Florida (tempered by the reactionary ant-Castro Cubans in Miami), We have the very conservative Southwest Florida. We have the moderate I-4 corridor through the middle of the state. And we have conservative North Florida (tempered by the two big university cities, Gainesville and Tallahassee.)

Boiling all this down, Florida actually comes out as much more moderate than folks on either end of the political spectrum want to admit. Charlie Crist knows this very well. His biggest political defeat, and his springboard onto the state political stage, came when he took on the moderate and hugely popular US Senator Bob Graham.

Charlie Crist is hugely popular right now because he is trying to be all things to all people. The RockridgeNation posting did not mention Charlies' number one priority - his "anti-murder" bill. He demanded and received it as the first bill he signed from the regular legislative session. This bill requires judges to keep probation violators in jail until the judge certifies the person is not a danger to society. The cost of building the jail cells needed for this could well bankrupt the state. My guess is the Florida Legislature is not going to provide all the necessary funding for this, thus creating an onerous burden for the County jails where most of these folks are going to be housed.

Charlie Crist also knows that for every progressive action he takes, he must do something to satisfy his political base. Thus his support of the failed school accountability test program and tax cuts. Crist is playing both ends against the middle. Whether he can continue to pull it off is an open question.

Stay tuned.

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