Florida Gov. Charlie Crist has made official what has been strongly suspected for some time — facing the certain prospect of a resounding defeat in the Republican primary, Crist will run for the Senate as an independent.
My general view is that it may well make sense for politicians who have held high office in a state to run for election as an independent if their party eventually rejects them. Unlike a lesser office holder, a Governor or a U.S. Senator must consistently make difficult choices and when they do, we should want them to reject their party’s line if they strongly disagree with it. But rejecting the party line can cause one to lose, or face certain defeat, in the next primary. Under these circumstances, there is nothing wrong with attempting, through an independent candidacy, to determine whether the electorate as a whole still wants the candidate to serve.
For example, it made sense for Joe Lieberman to run as an independent for the U.S Senate after his courageous stand in favor of succeeding in Iraq — vindicated in my opinion by subsequent events — caused him to lose the Democratic primary in 2006. Lieberman was the Senator from Connecticut, not the Senator from the Democratic voters of Connecticut, and he had every right to see whether the voters of Connecticut wanted him to remain in the Senate.
There is one major difference between the situations of Lieberman and Crist — unlike Crist, to my knowledge Lieberman never promised not to run for the Senate as an independent. Breaking one’s promises should be a big deal in politics.
But Florida voters can decide just how big a deal it is. My guess is that Crist will be unhappy with their verdict. My guess is also that Crist will find that, far from being the indispensable man he fancies himself, Florida voters don’t have much use for him.
If, however, Florida voters decide instead to elect Crist, either because they still have a high regard for him or because they consider the alternatives (Kendrick Meek and Mario Rubio ) too extreme, then democracy will be served, more or less.
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