Party switching – a healthy political and democratic process

Politics is ripe these days, the fruit some green, some yellow and shades in-between will inevitably fall to the ground with fresh saplings springing to life. Regardless of color, richness of soil and shade from the hardier older growth – will determine the quality and sweetness of the fruit. A few pods, scattered by fierce winds and torrential rains to less chaotic ground, quality and sweetness flow in abundance.

I see politics in those terms. My attention turns to vicious comments from many of our citizenry who wittingly or unwittingly do so toward people who exercise their constitutional right to choose among competing interest – specifically political parties.

The words expressed with vicious anger and scorn: “Counter, Traitor, Stupid and Uneducated, Dey should shoot al ah you, Wen we win ala you so do getting work,” and other obscenities I dare not mention.
Maybe calling attention to politics on a more civil plane would bring awareness that switching parties is a healthy political and democratic process.

A thorough look through the ranks of party switchers demonstrates that the tactic actually has a reasonably good success rate. (Consider Chris Koster of Missouri, who switched from Republican to Democratic while running for attorney general in 2008. He won and was re-elected easily in 2012. “He has been accepted into the Democratic Party in Missouri without any problems,” said Saint Louis University political scientist Ken Warren. “His political future seems bright.”

In New Hampshire, Lou D’Allesandro served as a Republican in the state House in the mid-to-late 1990s, then switched his affiliation to Democratic and proceeded to win a state Senate seat — a seat he’s continued to hold to this day.

In Michigan, state Rep. Sal Rocca switched from Democratic to Republican in the early 1990s. He was elected to a half-dozen more terms, and then was succeeded by his wife Sue and son Tory, both Republicans.

Iowa is home to recent successes as well. State Rep. Dawn Pettengill has been re-elected three times after switching from the Democrats to the Republicans in 2007.

When voters choose candidates for office, they delegate decision making on public policy to parties and to party-identified representatives.

It is not uncommon for elected legislators to abandon one party and enter another, even during the legislative term. For instance, approximately one-fourth of the members of the Italian lower house switched parties at least once during the 1996–2001 legislatures, (Heller and Mershon 2005; 2008), and more than one-third of the Brazilian MPs elected in 1986 had transferred from one party to another by late 1990 (Mainwaring and Pérez Liñán 1997)




The famous wrestler turn politician, Jesse Ventura, in 2000 while governor of Minnesota, left the Reform Party, along with most of his supporters, to re-found the Independence Party of Minnesota.

Hannibal Hamlin was Abraham Lincoln’s first Vice President. He was a life-long Democrat who switched parties after 1856, when he didn’t agree with the pro-slavery position taken by many party members. His defection to the Republicans made national headlines.

Wendell Willkie, the 1940 Republican presidential candidate, was a delegate at the 1932 Democratic convention. But he officially left the Democrats in 1939 after a dispute with the Franklin Roosevelt administration.

Ronald Reagan was also originally a Democrat and a New Deal supporter, who became a union leader while in Hollywood. He switched parties officially in 1962 and gave a famous quote: “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party. The party left me.”

Strom Thurmond ran as a segregationist candidate for President in 1948, and then served in the U.S. Senate in the 1950s. By 1964, Thurmond switched to the Republican Party in the middle of the Civil Rights battle, as many Democrats sided with the Johnson administration.

Elizabeth Dole served in the Johnson administration in the 1960s as a Democrat. But she remained with the Nixon administration, and switched parties in 1975, before her husband, Bob Dole, joined Gerald Ford on the 1976 GOP presidential ticket.

In 1964, a very young Hillary Rodham Clinton was one of the Goldwater Girls who campaigned for the Arizona Republican. She officially became a Democrat later in the 1960s after she attended the 1968 GOP convention.
Leon Panetta started out in politics as a Republican and he worked briefly in the Nixon administration. He switched parties in 1971 over concerns about the civil rights policies of the Nixon administration.

Elizabeth Warren, the current liberal icon, started life as a conservative who voted Republican because of the party’s pro-business stance, and she didn’t switch to the Democratic Party until the mid-1990s.
For the curious, Wikipedia has an exhaustive list of party switchers.

Kit Stonewalling

Tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.