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NYT Warns: Party-Switching Is Risky!

A “Congressional Memo” from New York Times:

Representative Parker Griffith of Alabama said last month that he was becoming a Republican.

Risks of Switching Parties Are Clear

Congressional Memo

By CARL HULSE

January 2, 2010

WASHINGTON — Periods of intense partisanship and turmoil occasionally lead to a smattering of Congressional party-switching. But changing affiliation is no guarantee of political survival. Just ask ex-Representative Michael P. Forbes of New York.

Before the recent decision by Representative Parker Griffith of Alabama to change his Congressional jersey, Mr. Forbes had been the last House member to abandon the majority for the minority. But back in 1999, Mr. Forbes, a three-term lawmaker, went the opposite direction of Mr. Griffith, sliding from the Republican column to the smaller Democratic side, saying his party had become too narrow and intolerant.

“A lot of people at the time thought something was clearly wrong with me,” Mr. Forbes, now a lobbyist, said in an interview, recounting how he gave up a desirable slot on the Appropriations Committee. “On the political landscape, a lot of people just thought it was a dumb move.”

Not only did Mr. Forbes become the bane of Republicans overnight, but there were plenty of Democrats who did not want him either. Republicans, eager to discourage other potential defectors, ganged up on him in the Democratic primary in 2000. He lost by a handful of votes to a retired school librarian, who then lost the general election.

Gosh, those Republicans are mean. So mean they even gang up on people in Democrat primaries.

Mr. Forbes’s experience is not uncommon. About one-third of the 16 United States representatives who switched since 1980 lost the next election for either their House seat or another office. Others, however, have become influential and admired members of their new party.

Party-switchers have fared better in the Senate, though Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who defected to the Democrats after his vote for the economic stimulus bill proved unpopular back home, is facing re-election challenges from both the right and the left.

Gosh, those Republicans are mean.

Mr. Griffith, the first-term lawmaker who signed on with Republicans last month, can probably relate to Mr. Forbes at the moment. He has outraged Democratic colleagues who cannot fathom that he jumped ship less than a year into his first term after the party invested in his initial election. Democrats are casting about for a top-tier opponent for their ex-candidate.

At the same time, some Republicans in Alabama are not eager to have Mr. Griffith as a new member of their club, saying his regular votes for Democratic initiatives — not to mention his supporting Nancy Pelosi for speaker at the start of 2009 — show that he is not conservative enough at a time when the party is looking for true-blue Republicans…

Gosh, those Republicans are mean.

If they are able to bag another Democrat or two, Republicans could claim a sense of momentum as they enter 2010, a welcome shift for them after losing the last two special House elections. And they have made some interesting overtures, with Senator John McCain of Arizona reaching out to Representative Christopher Carney of Pennsylvania, a Democrat and fellow naval officer, to ask him to consider a change.

But party-switching is a delicate and typically secretive process, and the first move usually has to come from the switcher. Republicans risk losing potential conquests if they get too aggressive and public. And despite obvious unrest among more-conservative Democrats about the difficult environment lying ahead in the midterm elections, only the most optimistic Republicans anticipate a wave of defections.

So for heaven’s sake, Republicans, don’t try to recruit any Democrats to your side. It will only fail.

But Mr. Griffith’s move, which came after a poll showed him in re-election trouble, certainly caught the attention of Democrats. They moved quickly to take the temperature of other House Democrats considered potential Republican targets, including Representatives Bobby Bright, Mr. Griffith’s fellow Alabamian; Travis W. Childers of Mississippi; and Walt Minnick of Idaho. Along with Mr. Carney, the Democrats indicated they were not contemplating a change.

And by “taking the temperature” they mean “threatened.”

Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said he believed that Mr. Griffith could have won re-election as a Democrat and that the lawmaker miscalculated. He does not anticipate more desertions.

“People don’t like finger-to-the-wind politicians,” Mr. Van Hollen said. “I am very confident that we are not going to see any more people switching parties.”

Which, of course, is exactly the point of this Times article.

Mr. Forbes remains comfortable with his move and noted that even some Republican friends who ostracized him at the time eventually came around. But his advice on party-switching is to make the decision based on true philosophical reasons, not political expediency.

But obviously Democrats who switch to the GOP are only doing it for “political expediency.”

After all, what else does the Republican Party have to offer?

“I thought about it for more than a year, and intensely for more than six months,” Mr. Forbes said, recalling his deliberations. “And I was probably naïve to believe some factions were not going to be as hostile as they ended up being. It was rough.

Gosh, those Republicans are vicious.

“But my life has gone in a direction now that basically confirms every day that it was the right decision for me.”

Obviously, leaving the Republican Party is a good thing even if you lose you seat in Congress.

Still, remember all the articles about the dangers of switching parties when Republicans were defecting to the Democrats?

We don’t either.

This article was posted by Steve on Sunday, January 3rd, 2010. Comments are currently closed.

14 Responses to “NYT Warns: Party-Switching Is Risky!”

  1. JohnMG says:

    …..” not to mention his supporting Nancy Pelosi for speaker at the start of 2009…..”

    Which is probably just about the time the beatings began for Mr. Griffith. I mean, if he thought he could be a blue-dog and maintain his independence from the democrat party machine, this had to be a wake-up call.

    My guess is that he’s seen nothing but “strong-arm” tactics since being seated. I believe it took guts for him to defect. Time will tell.

  2. Rusty Shackleford says:

    I, for one do not want any “former” democrat in the republican party. Once a democrat, always a democrat and they vote more often with their wallets as their main consideration. Don’t want ’em, don’t like ’em, don’t need ’em. Stay put.

    • Liberals Demise says:

      Not only that Rusty, they will still wet and crap on the carpet.

      “BAD DOG!!!”

    • jobeth says:

      DITTO!
      Don’t trust them. Never will.
      They were a dem for a reason. I suppose that people can change…but I don’t want a second rate “probable conservative” to be my rep.

      I want them to be a conserv for a long time before running for office.

  3. TwilightZoned says:

    “Still, remember all the articles about the dangers of switching parties when Republicans were defecting to the Democrats?

    We don’t either.”

    Touche’!

  4. Enthalpy says:

    We can hope that Specter gets what’s coming to him, no doubt. I had an old friend years ago who told me to never trust an ex-minister. I think he was close to right on that one, but if we never trusted defectors, we would miss out on some fine people. For example, I think a lot about the huge contribution to our country by David Horowitz. He’s done a great deal to open up many of our universities with his Academic Bill of Rights detailing what some of the Leftists are doing there. His David Horowitz Freedom Center and it’s blog, NewsReal.com.is first rate. I don’t plan on nominating him for sainthood, but like a few others, we might “trust, but verify.” David was born into a communist family, but after his life change, he’s opened a lot of eyes about who’s doing what to us. Anyway…

  5. U NO HOO says:

    “life change”

    Thinking you are going to lose the next election, like Specter, is not a life change if you voted for Pelosi or Reid as your leader, etc.

    Remember when Glenn Beck spoke of someone’s “Come to Jesus” moment (Romney’s change back to anti-abortion?) and Matthews almost had a tingle down his leg, or in his pants?

    Panetta was a Republican, change didn’t hurt him.

    Phil Gramm was a Democrat, who cares?

  6. Enthalpy says:

    Ronald Reagan was a Democrat who backed FDR to the max. I do think it would be difficult to trust someone who voted for Reid or Pelosi-no brains and all of that. And, they are dishonest to the bone and only want the power.

  7. MinnesotaRush says:

    Hmmmm.

    “If you don’t stand for your principals and values, you’ll fall for anything” seems to be resonating in my thoughts.

    Hmmmm.

  8. joeblough says:

    It’s a risk for the democratic party perhaps.

    One would have to be very cautious about relying on the newly minted republicans and independents. Does their defection signal a real ideological difference or is it simply a gesture to curry popularity?

    But their having bailed on the insane democrats would at least be suggestive of common sense and decency.

    It would justify giving them some thought and attention.

    • Liberals Demise says:

      “……..would at least be suggestive of common sense and decency.”

      Uh….don’t bank on it!!
      I smell a wolf in sheep fleece.

    • Rusty Shackleford says:

      Well, to me, it smacks of infiltration from within. They base their defection on lots of conservative rhetoric and once entrenched in the party, pull a political suicide bombing campaign and then it’s too late. They’ve already voted and the laws are passed. They are promised by the democrats cushy retirement life or positions elsewhere for their loyal service to the democrats by voting for liberal agenda crap while dressed as republicans. Doesn’t matter they don’t get re-elected. They have fried the big fish they were given and that’s all that matters.

      Therefore, I would never vote for a turncoat democrat based on words alone. I think this is what they’re doing simply because the boy has shown how easy it is to lie, lie, lie and then do whatever while still telling the whoppers.

      It’s a huge game to them. But one they intend to win regardless of how government is supposed to work.

    • joeblough says:

      “suggestive of” … “some thought and attention” … weak claims and deliberately so.

      That said, I can’t claim to disagree with either of you.

  9. The Redneck says:

    Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said he believed that Mr. Griffith could have won re-election as a Democrat and that the lawmaker miscalculated. He does not anticipate more desertions.

    “People don’t like finger-to-the-wind politicians,” Mr. Van Hollen said. “I am very confident that we are not going to see any more people switching parties.”

    “There are no American tanks in Baghdad! The American troops are dying like flies on our walls!”

    So a third of candidates who switch parties lose…
    Don’t HALF of the general number of people who run for office lose?

    And significantly more than that, if you consider the primaries as well.

    We’ve got them scared, and they’re scared because the Republicans are going to win.

    Note that I didn’t say WE are going to win. Whether the Republicans remember to dance with who brung ’em will determine the fate of our nation and their party.


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