If there weren’t enough alarm bells going off for Democrats about more moderate members of their party in the Congress, Tuesday brought the news that a Democratic member of the U.S. House was switching to the Republican Party.
Already, four Blue Dogs had decided not to run for re-election. Griffith took that one step further, as the Blue Dog from Alabama simply ripped the “D” off of his sleeve, and replaced it with an “R”.
“I was elected by the people of north Alabama as an Independent Conservative Congressman,” said Griffith in a press conference, where he delivered the bad news to Speaker Pelosi long distance.
“I have become increasingly concerned that the bills and policies pushed by the current Democratic leadership are not good for north Alabama or our nation and, more importantly, they do not represent my values and convictions,” Griffith added.
I was struck by Griffith’s choice of words, “Independent Conservative”, which shows how the Alabama Congressman was trying to separate himself early on in his first term in the Congress.
His loss won’t mean much to the Democratic leadership, since he was one of eleven Democrats who voted against the stimulus law, he voted against the Cap & Trade bill and voted no on the health care bill.
Still, just as the four Blue Dog retirements should not be brushed off as nothing, this party switch should not be ignored either.
Sometimes they can be an indicator of which way the tide is running politically.
Earlier this year, things were moving towards the Democrats in the early months of the Obama Administration. Back in April, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania dropped a bomb by switching from the GOP to the Dems.
At that time, the Democrats had the momentum in the Congress.
Now, the table seems to be tipping towards the GOP. Four Blue Dogs opt against re-election runs. There are rumors of more Democrats throwing in the towel. And now Griffith switches to the GOP.
One last thing on party switches in the Congress from my observation post. I always look back to the early 1980’s, when Rep. Phil Gramm of Texas switched from the Democratic to the Republican parties.
In January of 1983, Gramm put his money where his mouth was – he resigned his seat in the Congress and then switched parties – and ran for his old seat in a special election as a newly registered Republican.
Gramm won his seat back and ultimately made his way to the U.S. Senate.
It’s easy to switch parties while you’re in office.
It’s a little more gutsy to give up your job, change your affiliation and run again.