Fangate, Fanghazi, @CCristFan. Whatever meme you choose today to braid into the long wild hair of Florida, Lady Liberty's abandoned enfant sauvage, it means the same thing: God detests this state and its people.
There was a debate last night at a community college in Broward County between two Republican governors of Florida, over which of them was best fitted to continue being governor of the state from 2015 to 2019. There was the previous Republican governor of Florida, Charlie Crist, a magical golem-like man assembled from tanned hides and porcelain teeth, a hollow vessel that can inhale and exhale soul and spirit and conviction like so much atmospheric vapor. Perhaps that's why Crist insisted, as he always does in debates, on keeping an electric fan at his feet, blowing up toward his face: It keeps any recently acquired beliefs from slipping out his main escape hatch.
At the other lectern was the current Republican governor of Florida and humanoid ex-CEO Rick Scott. Only Scott did not emerge from the wings of the stage on cue. He remained backstage, reportedly with his debate coach, who previously ran forensics at Liberty University and advised Michele Bachmann. He was mad about the fan. It was against the rules, he said. And Scott is a stickler for rules. Scott, the corporate hospital lawyer and author of a law review article on fiduciary responsibility who, once questioned over whether he'd broken rules as a CEO, told investigators in a deposition that he could not define "market," "over-capacity," "corporate hospital law," "deposition," and "fiduciary responsibility," would not debate a man with a fan.
Crist stood alone onstage, air-conditioned trousers and all, while the flummoxed hosts tried to articulate to viewers what was happening. Here was a transcript of the standoff, captured live on C-SPAN in the video above:
Eliott Rodriguez, CBS4 anchor and debate host: "Ladies and gentlemen we have an extremely peculiar situation right now…. We have been told that Gov. Scott will not be participating in this debate…. Gov. Crist has asked to have a fan, a small fan underneath the podium….
"The rules of the debate that I was shown by the Scott campaign say that there should be no fan. Somehow there is a fan there. And for that reason, ladies and gentlemen, I am being told that Gov. Scott will not join us for this debate."
Boos fill the hall.
Rosemary Goudreau, Sun-Sentinel editorial page editor and moderator: "Do the rules of the debate say that there should be no fan?"
Crist: "Not that I'm aware of."
Goudreau: "So the rules that the Scott campaign just showed us that says not electronics can be used, including fans…"
Crist: "Are we really gonna debate about a fan? Or are we going to talk about education, and the environment and the future of our state. I mean, really."
Scott's camp had indeed said that the fan violated the rules agreement both candidates had signed before the debate. That's the camp of Rick Scott, the man who, when asked about a letter he'd signed that may have indicated an illegal payoff, told investigators: "I sign letters all the time that I have not read."
Scott's camp was wrong, according to the agreement Crist had signed:
Hilarious: Crist penciled in a note about the fan when signing the debate agreement contract pic.twitter.com/TvLG26LwnS
— Zach Hanover (@zhanover) October 16, 2014
In any case, after six or seven minutes, depending on which reporter's pain threshold you trust most, the sitting governor of the fourth-largest state of the most powerful nation in the world came forth to his lectern and exchanged mostly false soundbites with Crist, who paid him in kind. If Scott seemed awkward, off-balance, it may have been because of the fan flap. Or it may have been because he's used to simply signing personal checks to facilitate the delivery of mass-media attacks against opponents, rather than delivering them himself, like a shnook.
Commentators are saying today that the moment Scott refused to take the stage was the moment he lost the election. This is wrong. First, it's not immediately clear he will lose this election, because this is Florida, and Florida elected him before, knowing damn full well what he is—just as Florida elected politician-like organisms Katherine Harris, and Pam Bondi, and Alan Grayson, and George W. Bush maybe twice, and Al Gore maybe once. Also, this guy holding the possum.
Second, the moment was devastating only if you found Charlie Crist charming or gubernatorial, out there, alone on a stage, staring expectantly at his bemused would-be interviewers, fanning his below-the-belt parts.
That was not a moment that tipped undecideds. But this moment, in the ensuing debate, when WFOR's Eliott Rodriguez asked Rick Scott what was the big deal about a goddam personal cooling system, was when things fell apart, the center could not hold, and mere anarchy was loosed:
That was the moment when men like Sal, the sweaty bug-eyed mass of a payday lender who in 2003 sold me my first used Bronco off his lot in a sketchy unincorporated Broward neighborhood not far from Wednesday's debate venue—the kind of men Florida Republicans need in tight statewide contests—looked at Rick Scott on the screen, blinked, muttered "Fuck that shifty asshole," tore up their sample ballots, popped another High Life, and switched over to the Pacers-Cavs preseason game so they could growl obscenities at LeBron for a while.
Only slightly less off-putting than Rick Scott himself was his spin team, which demonstrated its timely in-touchness by cracking dumb appliance "jokes" and setting up a Buzzfeed meme page dedicated to the fact that Charlie Crist really likes to have fans around him. Well, no shit, a vain leathery politician from Florida hates to sweat. It's fucking Florida. If any of Scott's team was actually from Florida, they'd understand.
At the end of the day, what sucks about this entire affair is that if Rick Scott does lose reelection now, it will not be because he oversaw (and probably engineered) one of the largest-ever illegal private-business schemes to defraud taxpayers, in which his "health care" corporation paid illegal kickbacks to doctors to entice them to refer Medicare recipients to his hospitals and then bill them for costly phantom maladies. It will not be because he tried (before the courts rebuffed him) to get welfare recipients to pay for their own piss-drug-tests, managing to cost Florida taxpayers money in the process and learning that surprisingly few welfare recipients did drugs. It will not be because his bright idea to goose science education in Florida was to charge liberal arts majors more for their degrees. It will not be because he tried very hard to suppress the vote in Florida, mainly among minorities. It will not be because he fought Obamacare and lost, and fought gay marriage and lost. It will not be because of the deaths of children in a gutted protective services system he oversaw. It will not be because he has sided with utilities, insurance companies, negligent doctors, unlicensed barbers, usurious money lenders, rapacious funeral directors, medical-sector profiteers, private prison operators, tea partiers, privatizers, lobbyists, rightist ideologues, and entire hitherto unknown phyla of sucker-faced corporate get-rich-quickers over everyday Floridians.
It will be because of a stupid debate inside of a stupid debate over an electric fan. The political result may be the right one, but it's evidence that human civilization in Florida is flaking off in ruddy chunks.
As a native Floridian, I am just so, so very sorry.
This is an evergreen tweet.
— A Big Scary Robot (@ryansholin) October 16, 2014
I get that partisans of one political faction or another will usually back an anointed candidate whom they don't actually like. After all, Democrats are voting for Charlie Crist. Like Rick Scott, he is a tumor. Unlike Rick Scott, he's proven himself largely benign.
But who knows? Maybe Crist is a different guy without that fan.