It's been six weeks since Florida Governor Charlie Crist announced that he would seek the open Florida U.S. Senate seat as an Independent. This decision represented a major break from the Republican Party under whose banner he won the governorship. While that could be seen as his own political Declaration of Independence, his recent veto of a bill that forces women seeking abortions to first view an ultrasound and requires doctors to describe the fetus shows that partisan independence reveals the true Crist - an ideologically moderate politician who was forced to kowtow to the right wing of his party to win elections. Crist's independence should be a lesson to both voters and prospective candidates - rigid ideology is not in the best interest of public policy because it forces good people out of the policy debate.
I changed my party affiliation a few years back from Democrat to Independent. I'm still the same ideologically, but I did it, in part, because I wanted to call it as I see it and not be worried about hearing from party hacks telling me that I wasn't supporting "so-and-so" like a good Democrat would. I've found independence to be great. It's intellectually freeing and I really believe Crist will grow more politically as a result of his independence.
I'm not saying his veto is solely about political courage; he's been on both sides of the abortion debate and I'm certain there was some general election political calculus in his decision. However, there should be no doubt that this decision would not have even been an option for Crist if he were still a Republican. While the true Crist is now anathema to the Grand Old Party, the fact that his view of ideology is more in line with the majority of Floridians than the party he left should be disconcerting. How do we know that his view is more in line with the voters? Well, he's been ahead in the polls since his party switch and, barring any major unforeseen screw ups, he is the favorite to beat both Republican nominee Marco Rubio and Democratic nominee Kendrick Meek in November. While he's still to the right of me ideologically, I want to salute Crist and his Declaration of Independence.