In April when his defeat in the Florida GOP primary for the U.S. Senate seemed certain, Gov. Charlie Crist left the Republicans to run as an independent.
As a result, Republicans have called Crist disloyal, and both Democrats and Republicans have called him a career politician who’s only looking out for his future.
Politicians should worry about their careers. It keeps them in check and forces them to care about what the people want.
For too long, loyalty to one’s party and voters’ perception of that loyalty have been key indicators of many hopeful politicians’ fates.
Acting as filters, primary elections often weed out those whose loyalty and willingness to act in accordance with the party’s ideological principles – however absurd or polarizing to a constituency’s welfare – is suspect.
This may explain why Crist, who was initially leading Republican primary polls, was surpassed by conservative hard-liner and tea party favorite Marco Rubio for the GOP’s nominee in the Senate race.
After leaving the party, Crist has widened his appeal with a populist approach. As governor, he has vetoed several measures, ranging from abortion to insurance, that Republicans sponsored and pushed through the Legislature.
A recent poll now has Crist leading the three-way race among himself, Rubio and Democratic candidate Kendrick Meek.
It appears that Crist’s departure from the GOP has freed him from his obligation to uncompromising ideological rigidity.
With Democrats controlling Congress and the White House, the GOP has been continually looking to redefine its identity, which led many toward popular and ever growing Rush Limbaugh-style neo-conservatism, unwilling to compromise with dissenters.
It’s hopeful that a politician can still win an election without the support of the Democratic or Republican parties.
The nation needs more politicians who are willing to act in the interests of the majority, not just the small, vocal political minorities that often hold the major political parties’ nominations hostage.
Crist vetoed an abortion bill that 55 percent of voters wanted him to veto, according to a poll conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs. This was a bold move that Crist certainly wouldn’t have made if he were still fretting over party compliance.
He also vetoed the highly controversial teacher tenure bill that Republicans supported.
Like many relationships in American society, the one between a politician and his or her constituents is a transaction.
If politicians give constituents what they want, they are more likely to reciprocate by giving them their votes.
Crist should continue to give the people what they want, and perhaps other political leaders will follow his lead.
Justin Rivera is a senior majoring in history.