Charlie Crist took a look around, pronounced the view "horrific" and decided it was time to change his direction.
That was Charlie's conclusion about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, over which Florida's governor flew for a first-hand look. Afterwards, he changed his mind about offshore drilling and said oil rigs off Florida's coast would be too risky.
That might also have been Charlie's conclusion about his future in Republican politics. His prospects for winning the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in this year's race were horrific, so he jumped ship and will run for the Senate as an independent, setting up a three-way race in a big swing state that has political junkies wetting their trousers with excitement.
Crist's critics in the GOP pooh-poohed his switch as an ego trip. For Charlie, it's all about Charlie, they say.
In varying degrees, that's true about anyone who runs for high national office. Much more important is what Crist's switch says about the current state of the Republican Party.
If the party no longer has room for center-right candidates like Crist, or even right-center-right leaders like Lindsey Graham, who's taken a lot of heat for his bipartisan forays in legislative craftsmanship, then it is in danger of becoming an authoritarian monoculture, where questioning words are shouted down and conformity is enforced with litmus tests.
Given an ideal set of circumstances, monocultures can thrive. In politics, as in the rest of lfie, however, ideal circumstances rarely prevail. Monocultures are brittle things that lack resilience when curveballs come from the unpredictable future.
Charlie Crist might or might not succeed with his risky gambit. He's now persona non grata within the Republican Party. Too bad, because the party would be better off as a big tent that makes room for mainstreamers like Crist than as a pup that keeps out all but the purest of the pure.
Photo: State of Florida via Wikimedia Commons
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