On New Year’s Eve, Watermark, a noted Florida-based LGBT publication, published an interview that the paper’s founder, Tom Dyer, had with former Florida Governor Charlie Crist. The interview took place on December 14th, after Crist had met with the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades. Crist, who was previously a Republican when he served as Governor, became an Independent when he ran for the Senate in 2010 against Marco Rubio and is now running for Governor of Florida again, this time as a Democrat against Republican incumbent Rick Scott.
In the interview, Dyer pressed Crist about his previous term as a Republican and how as recently as three years ago while running for the Senate, Crist was openly opposed to same-sex marriage. Crist apologized for his previous views and pointed out that when he was a Republican, he felt that he ‘was a round peg in a square hole; regarding social issues. He also pointed out that he was mostly a Republican because that was how he was raised. As his interest in politics grew, he felt that he had no real choice but to be a Republican and toe the party line.
Dyer also pressed him about how some could see him as an opportunist and feeling that the easiest way for him to get back in public office was to switch parties. Crist passionately defended the reasons for his switch, as he said it was more about how intolerant the Republican Party had become. In fact, Crist said they ‘went nuts.’ He also pointed out that the GOP became anti-everything, and when a party does that, it clears out the room and nobody wants to be part of it anymore.
I would state that this was an interview well worth checking out. Dyer was able to pull a lot of real, emotional statements from Crist and not just the standard political talking points. It also represented Crist’s first interview with the LGBT press. As for the matter of supporting same-sex marriage, Crist changed his stance more than a year ago, when he told the Tampa Bay Times in December 2012, right after he officially registered as a Democrat, that he regretted signing the state ban on same-sex marriage while he was Governor.
Apparently, Crist speaking to a gay paper and reiterating his support for marriage equality was too much for some GOPers. CNN decided to ask some members of the of the Republican Party what they thought about Crist’s statements and the responses showed a great amount of animosity towards the ex-Republican governor. Susan Hepworth, spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida, was particularly venomous, as she pointed out that Crist would do and say anything to get himself elected. She also had this to say:
“This is one in a long line of self-admitted politically expedient moves by Charlie, because Charlie does what’s best for Charlie. The most egregious example of political opportunism is when Charlie abandoned his job as governor to run for U.S. Senate while Florida’s economy was tanking.”
Jon Thompson of the Republican Governors Association said that Crist supporting same-sex marriage was ”the latest example of his embracing every side of an issue in a desperate effort of political opportunism.” It appears that the Republican Party is going to frame Crist as a turncoat and opportunist in his race against Scott. While there might be some merit in that, and I am sure many liberals and progressives aren’t entirely enamored with Crist, I think there is a bigger picture at play here.
Crist making the switch to Democrat is part of a larger problem for the GOP as a whole. Per his own words, Crist left the party due to its members’ lack of compassion and embracing of intolerance. The party had become too extreme, too full of zealots. The Democratic Party has officially become the big tent, where moderates, liberals and even some conservatives can all join. It is for people who embrace tolerance, who want equality for all, who dismiss irrational thought and just want the country to be a better place for all, not just some.
Justin Baragona is the Managing Editor at Politicus Sports as well as Senior Editor at PoliticusUSA. He was a political writer for 411Mania.com before joining PoliticusUSA. Politically, Justin considers himself a liberal but also a realist and pragmatist. Currently, Justin lives in St. Louis, MO and is married. Besides writing, he also runs his own business after spending a number of years in the corporate world. You can follow Justin on Twitter either with his personal handle (@justinbaragona) or the Sports site’s (@PoliticusSports).