Meet Your Florida GOoPers

For my first post to say hello — and learn how to use this interface — I thought I would tell you a true life story.

It was almost thirty years ago, but I once knew Charlie Christ — Florida’s Attorney General and presumptive GOoPer candidate for governor. If you look at Charlie Christ’s bio, you will see where he boasts being “Student Body Vice President” at Florida State. He was indeed — for like a month. What he did in his tenure in that job was not particularly memorable. What is interesting is how he got that job.

When I say I “knew” Charlie Christ, that is perhaps a little strong. I was acquainted with him. The folks I knew were some very interesting friends of his. These friends gave me my first good look at who runs the Republican Party. You’ve heard of Karl Rove, Ralph Reed, the late Lee Atwater, and any number of other hacks. They’re the tip of the iceberg — the most successful of a vast number of trained Republican cadres. Those trained cadres include a very “Rovesque” individual, who back in the late seventies, was a political operator in student politics at Florida State — a popular place for these jokers to cut their political teeth. His name is Doug Guetzloe, and you can hear him in the Orlando area on WAMT 1190 weekdays between 11 and noon.

You can also use Google to read up on him, including stuff like this. If you think you will get a good dose of the kind of corrupt shenanigans we are used to from Republican hacks, you’re right. This particular link, for instance, includes an allegation that Guetzloe’s political endorsements are for sale. I obviously can’t vouch for the truth of that allegation, but it sure does sound familiar. Guetzloe has been pulling the same kind of crap for thirty years.

I met Guetzloe when I arrived at Florida State as a freshman, and was looking to get involved with student government. As it turned out, student government at Florida State was no small deal. The student senate was authorized to allocate an annual budget from student services fees. At 2 million dollars, that budget was more than chump change — and being a student senator, or Student Body.President meant that you had some genuine power. As it happens, Guetzloe was the Student Body Vice President. So when I was looking to get involved, I wound up in his office. Eventually, I won a spot on the ballot for the upcoming Student Senate elections — Basic Studies seat six. Like most of Guetzloe’s crew that election, I did not win.

Before I showed up that fall of 1977, Guetzloe was allied with a guy who is now a Democratic State Senator, named Steve Geller. Guetzloe and Geller had formed something called the “Smile Party,” a couple of years earlier — “parties” at FSU were organized on a strictly ad hoc basis. Notwithstanding Guetzloe’s College Republican credentials, the “Smile Party” could fairly be categorized as a “left of center” organization. The “right of center” would be the political party that represented the so-called “Greeks” — frat boys and their sorority sisters. We’re talking good old fashioned “elite versus rabble” politics. Guetzloe and Geller were the leaders of the “rabble.”

For reasons I was never privy to, Geller split off from Guetzloe — whose “Smile Party” was now known as the “Florida Student Party.” Geller formed the “United Seminoles Party” who put up a slate of candidates against Guetzloe’s crew — including me — and also the “Action Party” who represented the frat boys. Geller won a plurality, the Action Party held its own, and Guetzloe’s FSP was sucking gas, winning just eight seats in a roughly 50 seat senate.

Are you bored yet? Stick with me. Now it gets good. You see, Geller’s splinter party was interpreted by Guetzloe as a “stab in the back” — which Guetzloe probably deserved, but as I say, I was never privy to those events. Being the Macchiavellian GOoPer cadre that Guetzloe was, he proceded to “get even.” Here’s how he did it.

The “hegemonic faction” — Gramsci meets FSU student government — of Geller’s USP was the group that ran the “Center for Participant Education” or “CPE” as it was known. This crew was something that is almost extinct these days. These guys were hard core, “Viva Fidel” radicals. Among this coterie, for example, was a guy named Jeff Rooney, who headed something called the “Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade,” who were Stalinists — no shit. There were also Trotskyites, Maoists, Leninists and who knows what else. Geller was not of that radical stripe, but he did include them as in his successful coalition. So they became the target of Guetzloe’s wrath.

Regardless of their genuinely radical politics, the Center for Participant Education was perhaps the single most worthwhile program funded by the Student Senate. It billed itself as a “free university” — a “folk school” of sorts, where anybody at all could offer a class in any subject at all. They had all kinds of stuff, from leftwing “teach ins,” to martial arts classes, to seminars in Zen Buddhism, and yes, some rightwing stuff, too, including classes by the “Campus Crusade For Christ.” As I said, they got their funding from those Student Services fees, allocated by the Student Senate, and controlled by the — you guessed it — Student Body President. At the time, that would have been one Greg Girard, who pretty much served as Guetzloe’s “face man.” Think “Dubya and Cheney” and you’ve got the picture — though to be fair to Girard, he was not a dumbass like Dubya. On the other hand, he was malleable, and pretty much did whatever Guetzloe told him to do.

In this case, Guetzloe told Girard to “freeze” the funding for CPE — an act of political retribution, plain and simple. Then he set out to replace CPE’s Board of Directors with his own hacks. He even put together an “astroturf” organization to go around and drum up support for this high handed exercise in “payback” for Geller’s betrayal. Oh yeah, he used everything in the current GOoPer playbook — which is where he learned it, and shows you just how long these jokers have been refining their hardball politics. I was actually the “point man” for the “astroturf” organization — something I mildly regret, but not too much. After all, this experience is how I learned so much about how these bastards operate.

CPE being an extraordinarily popular program, with hundreds of classes, and thousands of satisfied customers, this little exercise in applied Macchiavelli went over like a turd in a punch bowl. The Board of Directors was not replaced, and eventually, with the intervention of one of the University’s vice presidents, their funding was restored. As for Girard and Guetzloe, they actually faced a petition for recall — which successfully gathered enough signatures. In fact, it gathered enough votes to turn these two out of office — except of course for one last maneuver. Greg Girard resigned, and Guetzloe took over as Student Body President. Since Girard was no longer President, and Guetzloe no longer Vice President, there was no recall election that applied to the right people in the right offices — or at least, that was the argument that slowed the wheels down enough for Guetzloe to walk out of office on his feet. Before he left, Guetzloe appointed a Vice President to take over the office he had just vacated on his way up — if “up” is the right word.

That appointed Vice President was Charlie Christ.

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