Ex-Republican and former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist lambasted his old party at the Democratic National Convention Thursday night, charging that “Ronald Reagan would not have stood” for what the GOP has become.
“Half a century ago, Ronald Reagan, the man whose relentless optimism inspired me to enter politics, famously said that he didn’t leave the Democratic Party — the party left him,” Crist said on the final night of the DNC in Charlotte, N.C. “I can certainly relate. I didn’t leave the Republican Party — it left me. Then again, as my friend Jeb Bush recently noted, Reagan himself would have been too moderate and too reasonable for today’s GOP.”
Crist, elected governor as a Republican in 2006, left the party in 2010 after significantly trailing Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate primary. He turned independent, ultimately losing to Rubio in November. He fully endorsed President Barack Obama for re-election last month on the eve of the Republican National Convention.
Crist said today’s Republicans, including the GOP ticket of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, “aren’t up to the task” of reinvigorating the economy, infrastructure, public schools or saving Medicare and Social Security.
“They’re beholden to ‘my way or the highway’ bullies, indebted to billionaires who bankroll ads and allergic to the very idea of compromise,” he said. “Ronald Reagan would not have stood for that.”
Crist also seemed to take a veiled shot at “diversity” in the GOP.
“I look around Florida, and I see a state bursting with diversity and opportunity, a state that looks like America’s future,” he said. “When I look at the Republican ticket today, I see two candidates who would break the fundamental promise of Medicare and Social Security, and cut investments in our middle class which are so important to our economic recovery.”
Crist’s appearance capped a series of disaffected Republican speakers at the convention who said they had all turned their allegiance over to Obama, including Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chaffee, an Ohio firefighter and a Colorado mom.
Chafee, a Republican-turned-independent, told the convention Tuesday he was proud “to join with my Democratic friends on the eve of an election critical to the future of our children and their country.”
“As a former Republican, I represent a group of Americans who all too often have no one to speak for them,” Chafee said. “We are, at our core, conservatives in the best sense of the word: thoughtful, responsible with public resources and respectful of personal freedom. And we are liberal in the best sense of the word. We believe that government can and should be an instrument for the greater good.”
Chafee served one term as a Republican U.S. senator before being defeated by Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse in 2006. He left the GOP in 2007 and became an independent, endorsing Obama in 2008 and getting elected governor as an independent in 2010.
Chafee said his former party has “hijacked” the term “conservative,” charging that “there’s really nothing conservative about today’s Republican Party.”
“There is no room there for traditional conservatives like us,” Chafee said.
RNC Chairman Reince Preibus on Monday dismissed the effectiveness of showcasing speakers like Chafee.
“Look at these folks Democrats are trotting out,” Priebus said, according to the Providence Journal. “Not exactly rising stars of the future.”
Ohio firefighter Doug Stern said he left the Republican Party when they turned him into a “scapegoat” as a public employee.
“For the vast majority of my voting life, I have been a Republican,” Stern said. “Something’s happened recently — the Republican Party left people like me. As a member of the middle class they left me and they certainly left me as a public employee.”
Stern said being a public employee turned him into a “scapegoat” to the Republican Party, while Obama and Biden still view what he does as an “honorable calling.” He cited efforts to end collective bargaining rights in the states as a primary reason he’s supporting the Democratic ticket.
“Enough of the vilification of the people who work for a living. Enough of the disrespect of the middle class. Enough of their far-right agenda,” Stern said. “We support those who support us. That is why this Republican — I’m sorry, former Republican firemen stands here before you today.”
Maria Ciano, a stay-at-home mom who grew up in a “conservative Republican family” in Colorado, said she was supporting Obama because of his stance on women’s health issues.
“I grew up in a conservative Republican family in Aurora, Colorado. Many of my relatives can’t believe I’m doing this,” Ciano said. “I still believe in small government, but I no longer believe in the Republican Party.”
Speaking at the DNC, Ciano said Romney and Ryan “want the government to have a say in my family planning” including allowing “employers to decide what kind of birth control coverage I have, or if I can have it at all. They want to put insurance companies in charge of my health care.”
“They want to deny me the power to make the most personal decisions about my life. That’s not small government. That’s not the America I love,” she said.