Our ‘house liberal’ struggles with supporting Charlie Crist

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I have a rule about endorsing politicians (which means, effectively, saying that I will support a candidate on a blog post; please understand that I am nobody important enough to endorse anyone, for Pete’s sake): I don’t endorse any politician I have never met face to face. Don’t get me wrong — there are exceptions to this rule. I have never met President Obama, but as the house liberal here at SaintPetersBlog it should come as no surprise that I obviously strongly supported the president in both his campaigns. 

While it is true that I have written things — good things recently — about Charlie Crist, I have yet to meet him in person. And so, for that reason, I have yet to commit myself 100% to supporting him. I think it is likely I will be supporting him, and unless something quite dramatic happens, will almost assuredly be voting for him. 

But right now he has to earn my vote (aside from just meeting me face to face).

One of the big ideas President Obama campaigned on, especially in 2008, was this grand notion that he could change the very nature of Washington, D.C. and politics itself. Most people today say he has outright failed in that regard. 

I say the guy has a couple more years left. Let’s not be hasty.  

Change may be coming yet. 2013 was the preview. That change may well be made more real in 2014. The Tea Party has effectively crumbled as a political force in this country — but only electorally. The Washington shutdown of earlier this year was a Tea Party-driven fiasco. The lesson, which Republicans generally seem to have failed to grasp, is that the size and scope of American government may be up for continued debate, but one way or the other, it damn well better work. 

Cutting food assistance programs for military personnel is a great example of government not working well. Actually, the idea that anyone in the United States Armed Forces needs supplemental food assistance is itself a great example of our government — and our society — working poorly.

That students in the United States rank 25th in math performance is probably an example of our government working ineffectively. Whether that failure is laid at the feet of local governments, state governments, or at the federal level is a legitimate debate. But while we debate, we should know that we’re already wearing the failure.

Dead children in the supposed protective custody of the state? That’s a failure of government, no doubt about it.

And yes, the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act website has been a failure of government, too. But fixing a website to enroll in a government benefit is easy compared to some of the other debates we need to have.

In President Ronald Reagan’s first Inaugural Address, he said, “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” And that has effectively been the mission statement for how our government conducted itself over these last thirty or so years. Yes, even in the Clinton Administration, where I served for eight years. Clinton shrunk the size of government considerably. And if that’s not enough for you, remember the interesting juxtaposition against the George W. Bush Administration, which exploded the size of government — particularly the intelligence community — in the name of security. The Bush legacy with modern Tea Party-driven Republicans is not in good stead for this reason.

Those days may finally be coming to an end, thanks as much to the failed Tea Party efforts as anything President Obama has done, truthfully.

Here in Florida in 2013, we’re seeing people run and win on a pragmatic message of competence, effectiveness, experience. Amanda Murphy in Pasco County, Rick Kriseman here in St. Petersburg.

Judithanne McLaughlan has launched a campaign for State Senate, and translating good experience into government solutions that work is what she’ll be talking about on the campaign trail.

I don’t know for sure, but I’d be willing to bet Alex Sink will bring a similar message in her run for Congress.

Charlie Crist has already figured it out. Remember his first video from a couple of weeks ago? Tell me how I can help. Listen to his words at the rally where he announced his candidacy. This is a man who knows the score. He is saying a version of I know it’s broken, and I know how to fix it, over and over again. I suspect it could really work.

I doubt he and I agree on everything. But if he really is willing to serve as a pragmatic governor who understands the problems we’re facing as a state, and can at least start to fix them, then I’ll consider suspending my rule for him. He’d have my vote.