If one thing is certain about politics, it is that uncertainty is always right around the corner. Ideological preferences, party affiliations, and personal motivations all play a significant role in determining how a person conducts his or her self in a campaign and beyond. While party switches are not unheard of–both Ronald Reagan and Rick Perry are former members of the Democratic Party–one can reasonably expect that party affiliation is a somewhat established factor in a politician’s arsenal. This is not the case, however, in the case of former Florida governor Charlie Crist, who is again hoping to revive his fading political career by running for a second term as the state’s chief executive. In October 15th’s second gubernatorial debate, Crist and Governor Rick Scott squared off to show Florida voters the clear choice they have to make: do diligence and integrity matter in an elected official, or are empty promises enough to win them over? Moreover, is decisiveness a characteristic one looks for in the country’s leadership, or is it appropriate for them to be swayed by the winds of popular opinion? Is integrity no longer a characteristic one looks for in elected officials?
After observing the October 15th gubernatorial debate in person, I came away with little additional information to help decide my vote. However, I learned a great deal of information that revealed the personal character of each candidate. The substance of the debate–or lack thereof–was what one would expect of what is arguably the nastiest gubernatorial race in the country. What should have been an honest discussion of records turned into a game of “he said, she said” which left voters wondering who was manipulating statistics and who was actually looking out for them. After the now-infamous “FanGate,” I shifted my attention from the empty words to the men saying them. The moral character of my elected officials is just as important to me as economic performance, and the attitude behind their words matters just as much as the words themselves.
You may be thinking “Sure, that’s a nice bit about something quite obvious. Of course morality comes into play when electing people.” Does it really, though? Do we honestly still consider morality a crucial component to someone’s qualifications for a given office? What appeared on the surface as a petty complaint over a fan was in fact a much deeper issue that Floridians deserve to know about.
Originally, both campaigns signed debate rules that specified “no electronics” being allowed on the stage. Later on, the Crist campaign added a sentence to their rules that would allow a fan if necessary–something the Scott campaign never agreed to. Rather than negotiate with the opposing campaign to work out what would have been a trivial matter prior to the debate, Crist decided to play by his own rules rather than those agreed upon and used a fan despite rules to the contrary. Granted, Governor Scott’s campaign handled his ordeal terribly and should never have held the debate up for seven whole minutes of agonizing awkwardness, but this has more to do with Charlie Crist’s inconsistent “character” than a political misstep.
What may appear to some as an insignificant fight over a small electric fan actually reveals quite a bit about the character of the men vying for the governor’s mansion. Rick Scott, though not in the most ideal way, stood up for what he believed in. He took a stand against deliberate rule-breaking and made himself vulnerable in order to do so. Contrary to popular belief, Scott is the farthest thing from a politician. Uncomfortable in the spotlight and perhaps a bit awkward in conversation, Rick Scott is a businessman who runs Florida like a business–and succeeds. Contrast that image with a man who has seesawed between the two (three if you count Independents) major parties for the last eight years and allowed the winds of political opinion to blow him in every direction. (Maybe the fan that he so adamantly demanded he have had something to do with that?)
Integrity matters in your elected officials. You trust those in power to do what they promised to do once elected and hope that it betters you and your family. The October 15th debate only solidified the fact that there is a marked difference in Florida’s choices for our next governor; one with the strength to stand up for what he knows is right even if it costs him personally, and another who allows a little electric fan to blow his opinions to and fro to align with polls.