It's unclear what, if anything, Florida Rep. Charlie Crist believes. He won the Florida governorship as a Republican, ran for a Senate term as an independent, and is now serving in Washington as a Democrat. He is a tanned, spineless nothing, a man with a backbone of a sea cucumber and apparently half the brain.
Because, for some godforsaken reason, Crist just voted to hand Donald Trump $1.6 billion to build his border wall.
Last night, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an $827 billion "minibus" spending package that, among other things, includes funding for the Pentagon, energy projects, and, of course, a billion-dollar down payment to get moving on the wall.
Given that the so-called minibus package included funding for a towering monument to xenophobia, hubris, and budgetary stupidity, pretty much every house Democrat stood against the measure, and even five Republicans said they couldn't put their name behind the deal.
But not our Charlie. Not our sweet, beautiful Charlie. Crist was one of five Democrats who voted in favor of the spending package. And in a statement that suggests he might have a traumatic brain injury, Crist said yesterday he voted for the spending package despite opposing it.
"Let me be clear, I strongly oppose President Trump's proposed border wall," he told reporters after the vote. "I supported efforts to strike it from the legislation supporting our troops and veterans. It will not make our nation safer, it will not reduce unlawful crossings, and will hurt our environment. The provision can and should be eliminated in negotiations with the Senate."
The 30-member Congressional Hispanic Caucus also begged Democrats not to vote for the measure if it included border-wall money. But Crist approved it anyway.
Five Dem "Yes" votes on border wall/minibus bill: Bishop GA, Gottheimer NJ, O'Halleran AZ, Sinema AZ, Crist FL— Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) July 27, 2017
Five GOP "No" votes on border wall/minibus funding bill: Amash MI, Jones NC, Massie KY, Duncan TN, Sanford SC— Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) July 27, 2017
Technically speaking, Crist isn't Miami's fault. He represents Clearwater and St. Petersburg. But given the fact that he ran the entire state for four years, he maintains an outsize presence in Florida politics and is seen as something of an experienced mover and shaker within the Florida Democratic Party.
He's also a numbskull who doesn't seem to get how party politics work. This is the second time this year that Crist, who has repeatedly claimed to be a member of the anti-Trump #Resistance force, has voted to push forward some of the more xenophobic aspects of Trump's platform. Last month, Crist was one of just 24 House Democrats to vote for Kate's Law, a crackdown on undocumented immigrants that was both unnecessary and based on a ginned-up story about a woman killed by an undocumented person. The bill's namesake, Kate Steinle, was shot seemingly accidentally by an undocumented man in San Francisco. Republicans framed Kate's Law, which cranks up legal penalties on undocumented people who commit crimes, as a way to prevent undocumented people from killing Americans, but immigrants don't commit more crimes than the general population, and the man who shot Steinle in 2015 was deeply mentally ill and dumped on the street after a court tried, but failed, to imprison him for a nonviolent marijuana-possession charge from the 1990s.
Crist, along with Orlando Reps. Val Demings and Stephanie Murphy, bought into the hype and pushed the bill through. The Miami-based Florida Immigrant Coalition slammed all three lawmakers.
And now Crist is at it again, hamstringing another Democratic attempt to put up a figurative wall to stop a real one from getting erected along the southern border. You can recount the basic economic idiocy of the border wall through muscle memory at this point: Most undocumented people arrive by air or at ports and then overstay their visas, so a wall wouldn't keep those people out. The full construction costs are expected to run somewhere in the realm of $20 billion. Kicking out or otherwise stopping immigration rather than reforming the green-card system to speed up applications will almost certainly wreak havoc on the economy.
And, as we said before, studies show people in immigrant communities don't commit more crime than other citizens. In fact, if anything, they commit fewer crimes.
But Crist is a member of the Blue Dog Democrats, a coalition of Center-Right Democratic lawmakers who abide by a confusing and incoherent mix of socially and fiscally conservative ideals despite belonging to the nation's center-left party. The Blue Dogs don't have an official ideology — they just exist to give the more left-leaning members of the party headaches when they make boneheaded moves like this one.
Instead of putting up a unified front against Trump's border wall — an objectively stupid and irrational idea that would waste tens of billions of dollars — Crist's Blue Dog soul was apparently so gaga over a few extra billions in military spending that he's cool with funding the border wall and upsetting the nation's Latino community and sparking a diplomatic fight with Mexico as an afterthought.
Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.