Saturday, April 07, 2007
Can Crist save the Florida Republican Party from itself?
As far as scorecards go I think we can award round 1 to Gov. Christ in his clash with the State of Florida Attorney General, Bill McCullom:
"He wagged his finger at attorney Rob Wheeler, the clemency expert in Crist's office. He shouted "Point of order!" after catching Crist on a parliamentary mistake. He "yielded myself back my time," the way they talk in Washington. When McCollum accidentally referred to Crist as "Mister" (Mr. Chairman, presumably), Crist shot him an icy glare and said: "It's ... Governor." [Emphasis mine] There's more at work here than a clash of philosophies. By taking a hard-line stand on this one issue, McCollum may have just inherited the mantle of the anti-Crists, conservatives who think Crist has moved too far to the left too fast."
Oh my. Looks like Bill McCullom is no Roberto Gonzales in the area of blind loyalty to the chief executive. And then there's McCollum's problem with that word most Republicans reach for when the debate is lost or the argument runs against them:
"There it is again. The L-word.
As a U.S. Senate candidate in 2000, McCollum called Democrat Bill Nelson a liberal.
As a U.S. Senate candidate again in 2004, McCollum called Mel Martinez a liberal trial lawyer Crist supported Martinez."
Unfortunately for McCollum and the winger crowd the image and face that represents the Republican party was not only a personal injury lawyer but a,......er......liberal:
"Prohibition will work great injury to the cause of temperance. It is a species of intemperance within itself, for it goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man's appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A Prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded."
As if that's not bad enough then there's that last old vestige of Jim Crow: having felons stripped of their voting rights preserving the GOP stereotype of intolerance. It's becoming increasingly clear Charlie Crist knows where the future of the Florida Republican party lies: the state's minority population. Nancy Scola of Mydd.com summed up nicely what Crist knew he had to do upon taking office:
"Crist is the Republican Governor of Florida who has successfully fought to extend the voting rights to ex-felons in that state. Two of the three members of the clemency board in Florida had to get on board with Crist's plan, and in a bit of a shocker he managed to convince both Democratic CFO Alex Sink and Republican Ag Secretary Charles Bronson. (Not that Charles Bronson. I think.) Manjoo is a bit gobsmacked that a Republican would act in a way that helps Democrats electoral prospects by creating a million new presumably left-leaning voters."
The Majoo she is referring to is Farhad Majoo of Salon Online. The scope of Mr. Majoo's article for Salon, entitled "What was Crist thinking," concentrates on the national GOP efforts of voter suppression through two methods that included the push for prosecution of so-called voter fraud violations and the restriction of poll access with stricter id requirements:
"Crist's move is all the more remarkable when you consider the political backdrop behind the fight for voting rights in America. In an attempt to prevent what they call "voter fraud," Republicans have long called for measures that restrict traditionally Democratic voters' access to the polls. The Bush administration's Justice Department has pushed regulations requiring people to show identification when they vote, and it has moved to aggressively punish alleged fraud -- an effort that contributed to the firing of some of the U.S. attorneys for which the administration now finds itself under fire."
In the Presidential election of 2000, polls projecting a race to close to call was proving that a GOP victory in Florida was problematic. In an attempt to preserve the state's electoral vote for the GOP in a razor thin race Jeb Bush and Katherine Harris orchestrated a purge of felons from the voter rolls. Forget that the vote recount that was stopped by a Supreme Court violating their constitutional jurisdiction over state voting procedures [thereby pushing the fallacy of the right as they cried "How many times do we have to recount to show the same result?]. Forget that several independent recounts proved that Gore won anyway. What mattered was that white conservative political power was being preserved at the expense of minority voter disenfranchisement.
Crist knows all to well what the legacy of Jeb Bush and Katherine Harris means to the minority population in the state. This continuing practice of minority voter disenfranchisement is a road leading to future electoral disaster for the state GOP. He realizes that the only way to avoid this road is to reach out to the minority population represented by the Latino, Hispanic and African-American communities where all demographic trends point to their future majority status. Distancing himself from the Jeb Bush, Katherine Harris and the extreme right faction of his party, currently led by Bill McCullom, is the first step. The second step for Crist's plan is to back the restoration of voting rights for felons. The Pavlovian reaction of the McCullom's faction of the GOP in apoplexy so far isn't a surprise.
McCullom and his brethren would do well to contemplate the fate of Israel and their untenable position of maintaining their majority status as a Jewish state with their current demographic voting trends. They would also do well to peruse some studies showing like demographic voting trends in the state of Florida with the same ominous tones for the state GOP. Mr. Majoo asks ue rhetorically, "What was Crist thinking?" As it turns out, Gov. Crist was wondering wheather or not he could save the future of the Florida Republican party. Whether or not Christ eventually comes out on top in his fight with McCullom's faction is unknown. But what is certain is that the future of the Florida GOP as a viable party of choice for the minority community hangs on the winner of that clash.