If you are involved in Florida politics and have a Facebook page, it’s likely your timeline was dominated by pictures of Charlie Crist working the crowd at the Florida Democratic Party’s state conference.
There’s Charlie being trailed by his new entourage of Dan Gelber, Keith Fitzgerald, and Steve Schale!
There’s Charlie posing with Mickey and Minnie Mouse (the conference was held Saturday at Disney’s Beach and Yacht Club Resort)!
Yet, of all the pictures streaming from the Democrats’ confab, the one that stood out most was the shot of Crist sitting on the floor.
The Palm Beach Post‘s George Bennett snapped a candid of Crist seated on the floor during the jam-packed meeting of the Black Caucus. And with this simple act, Crist displayed the kind of humility — especially on the intransigent matter of race — missing from Rick Scott’s administration.
On one hand, here is a likely gubernatorial candidate so comfortable with himself and with his ability to interact with people of color that he has no hesitation sitting on the floor during a meeting of the Black Caucus.
On the other hand is Gov. Scott, who previously attempted to bond with black lawmakers by suggesting he was like them because he grew up in public housing.
In 2011, Scott welcomed African-American legislators to lunch at the Governor’s Mansion, but his choice of words left some feeling more alienated than ever, according to Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times.
In discussing his own humble origins, Scott suggested all black lawmakers grew up poor.
“I grew up probably in the same situation as you guys,” Scott said to the group of 20 Democrats. “I started school in public housing. My dad had a sixth-grade education.”
Rep. Betty Reed said she was offended by the remark, but did not protest at the time because she said it was more important to have a productive dialogue with the new governor.
Afterward, she said, “He assumed that everyone [in the room] was poor and that can only be because you’re black.”
Scott’s reputation with Florida’s African-American community has only deteriorated further since this slight. Many of Scott’s policies, including his push to drug test state workers and to tie drug testing to receiving public assistance, are viewed as dog-whistle attacks on black Floridians.
If Scott’s relationship with the black community was not broken before these policies, it was shattered after the Trayvon Martin shooting and his defense of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law.
A conservative Republican, Scott was never going to be embraced by more than a sliver of Florida’s African-Americans.
In contrast to Scott is Crist, who on Saturday tweeted, “Just met amazing woman whose son can’t get a job because he can’t get his rights restored. We’ve got to fix that — again.”
It’s Crist’s work on civil rights issues such as felon voting rights restoration and opposition to Scott’s voter purge that earns him widespread support among black voters. Crist will count on that support not only against Scott, but in any Democratic primary where the black vote makes up to a third of the electorate.
Going back to that picture of Crist on the floor, ask yourself when was the last time you saw Scott portrayed in such an unscripted, revealing fashion. If only Scott understood what Crist knows: that sometimes sitting down with friends sends the tallest of messages.