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Charlie Crist on election night in St. Petersburg, Fla. He was defeated in his independent run for the Senate by Republican Marco Rubio.
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist was elected as a Republican and was once considered a potential running mate for John McCain in 2008. He will leave office after an independent run for the Senate failed.
His next project is to help guide the group No Labels — an effort to reduce partisanship in politics and seek common-sense solutions to the nation's problems. He will be joined by several U.S. senators, various political activists and a former adviser to President Bush.
Crist spoke with Michel Martin about the current political climate and the potential for change in the future. Here are some excerpts from their conversation:
Origins Of No Labels
"The idea here is that we want to have Americans come together to do what's right for all the people," Crist says. "And I think it's abundantly clear to most that either hard right or hard left partisanship is not a recipe for success, necessarily. And I think it's as simple as that."
What's Wrong With The Current System?
"Recent events illustrate it pretty well," Crist says. "First, the president proposed reducing taxes for the middle class that would lower the tax burden on about 98 percent of our fellow Americans. And the Republican point of view was, well that's not good enough, we need to reduce it not only on those who make $250,000 or less, but those who make more than that. Now what the president has done recently is say look, I'm willing to compromise, it doesn't necessarily have to be what the Democratic Party wants, it can be, you know, an extension of all the tax cuts. ... I think that he feels that in a lame-duck session that may be the best that can be achieved. ... I hope he's successful, because I think there is an opportunity ... before the new Congress comes to Washington, to be able to relieve that tax burden on all American people. And I think that will help the economy and it's common sense and it's the right thing to do."
But Didn't Partisanship Work?
Martin notes that Republicans — accused by Democrats of being the "party of no" — gained more than 60 seats in the House and reduced the Democrats' large advantage in the Senate.
"How do you argue with success?" Martin asks.
"I think we have to look at the overall picture to determine what ultimate success is," Crist says. "Clearly they made significant gains ... but let's look at the current makeup, even after the election. You have a Democrat in the White House. Democrats will control the U.S. Senate and the Republicans will control the U.S. House. What you have is a government in Washington where the Democrats hold two-thirds of the cards. Still, you're going to have to have Republicans who are willing to be reasonable, to utilize common sense, in order to get some tax reduction. ...
"I think Americans are frustrated if the partisans get too entrenched and don't ultimately reach a compromise that benefits the people, first and foremost.
"It really makes me think of President Ronald Reagan and Speaker Tip O'Neill. Who probably didn't agree on a whole lot of things ... yet were able to get along and at the end of the day, go out and have a cold one and understand that it's important for them to be civil even if they don't agree on everything in order to have success for both of their constituencies."
What Will Make No Labels A Success?
"I think the gauge is the mood of the country and possibly how elections can be successful in the future where you have people of a more moderate or centrist view that do gain elective office and I think that will happen," Crist says.
"You know, the mood swings very quickly. I mean, look at just two years ago, the sense of hope and positive feeling that came in with the election of President Obama. Obviously that seems to have shifted quite dramatically in the current environment. But I think the things that he's trying to do to reach back to the center will give the country an opportunity to come together again. I certainly hope so, for the sake of us all."