Politicians who think an easy way out might be to switch parties BEWARE. First, there was Pennsylvania’s experienced party switcher Arlen Specter, who found that switching from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party (years after he had switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party) didn’t help him keep his seat in Washington. And now we have the case of Alabama’s Parker Griffith who thought he could keep his Washington career if he only just dumped the Dems and switched over the GOP.
Party-switching Rep. Parker Griffith (R-Ala.) on Tuesday became the fourth congressional incumbent this year to be defeated in a primary, losing decisively in his first test before voters in his new party.
With his loss, Griffith became the second party-switcher to fall short in as many weeks, following the May 18 defeat of Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), a former Republican who lost the seat he had held for three decades in a Democratic primary.
Madison County Commissioner Mo Brooks led Griffith 51 percent to 33 percent with 93 percent of precincts reporting, a vote total that allowed Brooks to avoid a July runoff. Businessman Les Phillip finished a distant third with 16 percent.
As the Politico points out, this defeat didn’t come a surprise. If Griffith expected GOPers to greet him with open arms he got a clue early on that it wasn’t gonna happen:
Griffith’s loss did not come as a surprise, however, after his rocky reception from local GOP leaders. While Republican leaders in Washington headlined fundraisers on his behalf, local party activists remained wary of Griffith so soon after his tough 2008 election against Republican Wayne Parker.
Both Phillip and Brooks sought to portray the party-switching incumbent as untrustworthy, with Brooks’s TV ads highlighting the idea that he would be a congressman “we can trust.”
Griffith fought back, registering a down-the-line GOP voting record and pouring $255,000 of his own money into the race.
There is a lesson here for career politicians.
After you spend your career hammering on the other party, if you run into trouble with your own partisans for not voting pure enough or feel the need for a switch to survive due a changing environment you might find that you’re actually isolated. Partisans will view you as untrustworthy at best, a Benedict Arnold at worst.
It can be even worse if you decide to dump both parties: Florida’s Charlie Crist says he “lonely” out on the campaign trail running as an independent. These are the days of partisanship and ideological purity and those who switch parties, are independents, or seek to chart a centrist path.
Here’s a theme song for those who seek to do political battle by switching parties or running as independents in 21st century America:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4fdr_4QL5c&feature=related
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.