U.S. Rep. and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist on Wednesday defined Gov. Ron DeSantis as someone belittling respect and human dignity, and promised to “bring back good.”
During a whirlwind four-stop tour of Democratic base groups in Orlando Wednesday, Crist bemoaned that politics and society, particularly in Washington and Tallahassee, have taken on a coarseness and a meanness “that’s unattractive and unjust.”
He attributed that to the leadership and rhetorical styles of former President Donald Trump. He said DeSantis practices them as well — to the detriment of Florida.
“We need somebody who can bring back good, as corny as that sounds,” Crist told an Orlando gathering of labor union leaders Wednesday morning. “We have a Governor who acts like Trump. It breaks my heart. It does, because that doesn’t look like the real Florida. Floridians are good people.”
Later, speaking to an Orlando woman’s group supporting his candidacy, Crist said, “Just be decent. Be kind, and be gracious. You know, be good. Simple, right? Apparently not so simple for some people to carry out. And it’s important that we get back to that.”
And at a third stop at a College Dems gathering at the University of Central Florida, on a panel discussion of HB 1557 with Orlando Democratic Reps. Carlos Guillermo Smith and Anna V. Eskamani, Crist accused DeSantis of opposing “human dignity” because he thinks the tactic will help him win the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
Crist, in a Democratic Primary election battle with Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and Miami Sen. Annette Taddeo, also made it clear his tour was about winning the Florida Democratic gubernatorial nomination. At the union gathering, hosted at the Communication Workers of America Local 3108 headquarters, he openly pleaded for their support.
“I want you all to endorse me. Now. What are you waiting for?” he told leaders from more than a half dozen unions, including two which already have endorsed him. “And give me all the money you can.”
The topic of bringing back “good” may be a rhetorical high-wire act in today’s culture. How do you accuse someone of being mean-spirited without sounding mean-spirited about it?
As a theme, it could play for Crist, the former Republican Governor seeking his old job back as a Democrat. Crist long has been known for offering smiles and handshakes to everyone in a room, contrasting with DeSantis, who lately in public events has frequently directed his ire at critics.
Crist mostly accused DeSantis of cultural warfare in general terms, though he offered one specific instance as an example of coarseness: when DeSantis dressed down high school students for wearing COVID-19 masks at a March 2 press conference in Tampa.
At UCF, Crist contended that people should not have to be protesting for “simple human dignity” from the state government.
“It’s not just ‘Don’t Say Gay,'” Crist said, using Democrats’ name for HB 1557. “It’s a big deal because it’s a reflection of what is coming out of Tallahassee today, of what this Governor is trying to do to our beautiful state today.”
Crist also hammered at DeSantis all day over two other broad themes: freedom and respect. He accused DeSantis of distorting the concept of freedom to mean only freedom for some, and only on some issues; and of abandoning the concept of respect.
“We all love freedom, and we all believe in it, if anybody needed a reminder of how cherished true, actual freedom is, not the kind the Governor is talking about,” Crist said at the UCF forum.
“He says we’re the freest state in America? Well, apparently not if you’re LGBTQ+. Apparently not if you’re a woman and you want the right to choose. Apparently not if you’re African American and would like to be able to vote and not be suppressed,” he added.