As I read former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist's endorsement of President Barack Obama, listened to his address at the Democratic National Convention and heard his introduction of the president this past weekend in Seminole, I can't say that I was shocked or surprised. I was confused and saddened not by his endorsement of a president whose policies he vilified only 18 months ago, but by the tone of his continued separation from the party that he once proudly proclaimed to be his own. The party that he swore he would never leave. The party that worked so hard for him, from the grass-roots volunteers to the fundraisers working to quench his insatiable thirst for contributions and the next highest office. I was struck most by the clear truth that he hasn't an ounce of principle.
I was one of the strongest Crist supporters. Since 1992, I have contributed or personally raised about $2 million for his campaigns. I worked hard because I believed in him and the ideas he espoused. I defended him as others called him an empty suit, an opportunist. I defended him when he supported increased tuition at Florida's universities. I defended him as his hand-picked chairman of the Republican Party of Florida burned through resources and used the party coffers as his personal slush fund. I defended him, and his ambition, at every turn.
A number of my friends asked why I stuck with Crist, and the answer was simple: I stuck with him because of loyalty and friendship. Though I'm a staunch Republican, I do believe in the old adage of voting for the person, not simply the party. Now I ask myself how Crist transformed from a self-proclaimed "Ronald Reagan Republican," "Jeb Bush Republican" and a "true conservative" into an Obama independent. After so many evolutions, it's blatantly obvious that he hasn't evolved at all. An evolution requires a person to have some convictions at the outset. It's clear that Crist never possessed convictions at all. His beliefs are fleeting, based on the moment at hand and the desires of those who can bring him the most gain.
I can no longer sit idly by as Crist tries to once again deceive the public into believing that he actually cares. As the finance chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, I make this simple vow: I will do everything within my power to raise enough funds for Floridians to see the true character of Charlie Crist and to ensure he never sets foot in the Tallahassee house on Adams Street as a sitting governor again.
To those Democrats who just want to win and are willing to embrace anyone to reclaim power, I ask, given everything that Crist has "believed" in and has been: What makes you think that he won't turn his back on you and your principles just as he has to everyone and everything in his past?
Charlie Crist speaks today as if the words he has spoken before aren't recorded or never left his lips. He proclaims that the Republican Party "left him." Could it be that he left the Republican Party because he was no longer the superstar of the past? Or could it be that he turned his back on just about every person who was ever loyal to him? Or could it be that everyone was tired of policies lightly planted in shifting sand as opposed to being rooted in principles? He cares only about being relevant again and the power that comes with it.
It's admirable to proclaim to be for the people. But when you try to be everything to all of the people all of the time, it's solid proof that you're only out for yourself.
Dr. Akshay M. Desai is president and CEO of Universal Health Care in St. Petersburg and finance chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.