Oh, I know I should steer clear of politics, but this one really ticks me off!
Democratic U.S. Representative Parker Griffith has announced that he plans on switching to the Republican party. And it works both ways. Earlier this year, United States Senator Arlen Specter from Pennsylvania, switched to the Democratic party after five terms in the GOP.
Party switching is nothing new, and hundreds of politicians have switched parties since the mid 1800s (although it’s only happened 21 times in the U.S. Senate). But the fact that it’s been going on for such a long time does not make it right. Actually, it feels really wrong, almost fraudulent. Citizens don’t just vote for individuals to represent them, they also often vote based on party affiliation. Running for office as a member of a specific party, and then switching once in office, is deceitful, and is essentially depriving voters of their right to elect their own representatives in government.
Put it this way. If you hired an employee for a multi-year contract based on promises and commitments that employee made, and then found out that the employee arbitrarily changed course and directions and plans without your consent, what would you do?
Politicians have every right to switch allegiances, but they should not be allowed to do so mid-term. And if they want to do just that, then they should be forced to run a mid-term election, essentially allowing citizens to decide if they find the change acceptable and if they feel like they are still being appropriately represented.
Is is time for a 28th amendment to the U.S. Constitution?

28 thoughts

  1. i cant’ agree with you, here. I personally feel that if you vote for somebody JUST because he’s a Democrat/Republican you deserve to find out he’s really not. Had you just researched him a teeny weeny bit-for instance, read the voting information in one of each newspaper, you might have known you did or did not agree with his actual personal ideals.
    It’s never wise to vote by party, it is at least good to know what party faction your candidate is most favorable to. Would you prefer a liberal republican or a blue dog democrat? I speak from experience, the recent VA Gubernatorial election was won or lost because a few people really looked at the candidates and not their party affiliation.
    YMMV

  2. Nah. They can vote how they want without switching parties.
    I don’t see a compelling argument to take the dramatic step of changing the constitution to reduce someone’s rights and add costs to the system for something that doesn’t make a major tangible benefit to people’s lives.
    Switching parties, like everything else an elected official does is something that the voters can decide on come election time. We live in a republic, not a democracy.
    The question of whether a party should sue to get back the money they spent on an election, however, is a separate question.

  3. Personally I don’t care. I’d rather not have parties, so people would vote on issues and the person and not the letter next to their name. Anyone who votes based on party, even if just partly on that, really should not vote.

  4. I couldn’t disagree more. Actually, I think that the biggest problem facing the US *is* the 2-party system.
    Both sides of the aisle are butchering their own people when they don’t march lock-step with the party power-brokers. So instead of thoughtful debate with multitudes of nuanced views on important topics, we get 2 distinctly opposing views that rarely mesh with any demographic, nor represent anything but an abomination of justice, liberty and freedom.
    I think individual voters should spend more time holding their representatives feet to the coals – regardless of party affiliation – to ensure that they are doing the peoples’ business, rather than that of some special interest. Instead, most people cheer all that their side promote, turning a blind eye toward transgressions and vilify the other side, turning a blind eye toward reason.
    It’s time the American public stopped treating politics like a sporting event, where we choose one team and blindly cheer for them down to the final clock tick because anyone who’s so naive as to think that any of these people are anything more than just 2-sides of the same coin is delusional.
    Both party’s fanboys are equally guilty of this. Rather than rooting for our side to win, we all ought to be challenging each and every representative on everything they say and do as that’s the only true way to keep them accountable for the their actions and to ensure that they are there doing the peoples’ work.

  5. "Running for office as a member of a specific party, and then switching once in office, is deceitful, and is essentially depriving voters of their right to elect their own representatives in government."
    Running for office as a fiscal conservative by pledging to tackle the deficit and reduce waste and then breaking record after record for spending is deceitful as well. If only we held politicians to the same free speech standards we have for officers in public companies. Heck, didn’t Martha Stewart get jailed for saying she was not guilty of insider trading? Imagine if we could jail a politician every time they lied to us?

  6. I agree with Andy. The 2-party system has only encouraged people to take the easy way and vote based on party affiliation instead of really thinking critically about the issues (or the candidates they vote for). Although it is encouraging to know that people are starting to realize this and the ranks of independent voters has been rising over the last few years.

  7. FWIW, I’d be just as irritated if a politician ran for office with a firm position on a specific subject, and then voted differently. It’s essentially obtaining a job under false pretenses.
    And yes, it’s definitely time for additional viable parties. Agreed.
    But I don’t agree with dismissing party affiliation in voting. For many that is important, be it wholesale voting for a single party, or the opposite, voting for different parties to try to ensure balance. I am not saying that I agree or disagree with these positions, but I can’t discount them as valid criteria any more than I can any single issue voting.
    Bottom line, we hire politicians, we pay their salaries, and they need to answer to us. And waiting a full election cycle when an employee makes ab about term is inadequate.
    — Ben

  8. Well the framers of the Constitution did not want you to vote for a party, they wanted you to vote for someone to represent you. Parker Griffith is a was a very conservative Democrat and is a freshman representative. If he believes his party shifted to the left and his views line up with the Republicans more now, that is OK. Just as long as he didn’t fundamentally change his positions and still represents his constituents. Arlan Specter is a different story, he completely changed his voting habits from a tiny bit right of center to far left. He did it purely for selfish reasons because he was going to lose in the Republican primary in 2010.
    The real problem is representatives looking out for themselves and not for their constituents. If you want a 28th amendment, make it for term limits and not for party switching.

  9. When I vote on a candidate to be "my elected representative", they should represent the values that are important to me. From time to time we are going to disagree, but all in all they should represent my position. If an individual says he/she is now a conservative/liberal and will represent the conservative/liberal position from this point forward, then those that are represented should have the right to change their mind as well and vote to keep the individual in the office they hold dear. However, if you claim a new affiliation just so that you are not associated with the current band of nut jobs in office, but continue to support your old positions, I think they should be publically flogged. 2 cents.

  10. @Bob,
    Arlan Spector didn’t go from "tiny bit right of center to far left", the Republicans went from right of center to far right. They are catering to the 10% crowd now. If you aren’t one of the 10% people, they consider you liberal.

  11. NOTE: ^ that Jeff is not the Jeff that posted earlier.
    If you ask me, both parties are turning into extremes. The Democrats seem to have run as fiscal conservatives with a pledge to not be as extreme as the Rs were during their reign…and they immediately veer off into leftist lalaland.
    What we need is someone who understands that stealing from our children and grandchildren isn’t a recipe for success. That the answer to overspending isn’t even more government spending.
    Mery Christmas, kids…your politicians are giving you $13 trillion in debt for next year!

  12. Haha Ben, lots of comments this time.. Well as Australia uses the British political system, of voting for parties, I must say I prefer the US way of voting for the person. I disagree with you too Mr Forta. The politician should represent his or her constituency, not party. Good example, Joe Lieberman who was kicked out of the Democratic party yet got elected as an independent. It shows that people still voted for him, and therefore, it was not the will of the people that he should have been kicked out.

  13. Interesting how there’s only an uproar when it’s a Dem switching to Republican. The same folks that whine now were silent when it was the other way around.

  14. But waiting a full election cycle is the whole point of a republic (remember "to the *republic* for which it stands"). Elected officials are supposed to be somewhat protected from the emotional responses of the populous. This is to enable them to do things that may be painful in the short run but necessary in the long run.
    This is why we have two chambers, one is supposed to represent the whim of the people (being directly elected every two years) and one is supposed to take a longer view and represents the state (being elected only every 6 years – though now also directly by the people).
    Plenty of people here have complained about fiscal irresponsibility. But, in the short run, that is exactly what most voters seem to want. The need to wait for election cycles (while far from perfect) helps ensure this isn’t any worse.

  15. Ben,
    Here are two things to consider. He was facing an early deadline right after the first of the year to make the move in order to get on the ballot. Second two Republicans have
    already indicated indicated they were interested in running. With that early state deadline it would be extremely unfair to potential candidates of both parties if he
    chose to do it at the last second.

  16. So let me preference this by saying, I am a resident of Pennsylvania, and was looking forward to voting Specter out of office. As such, I was disappointed by his switching parties and the Pennsylvania Democratic establishment’s support of this move.
    At first glance this does seem slightly dishonest and fraudulent. But… in Specter’s case the state Republican Party had made it clear that he was no longer acceptable as a Republican according to their definition. They were backing his Republican primary opponent, and it was obvious that he wasn’t going to get nominated. At that point, it’s clear that the local Republicans no longer consider him a Republican, what’s wrong with him accepting their judgement and changing parties? My gut feeling on this is that it would be against the spirit of American freedom to not allows this. As much as I am unhappy about Arlen and I being in the same party, I have to say it would be wrong to restrict this type of movement, as much as I dislike it.

  17. How about an amendment that: Makes ALL bills read, and put in OPEN public for review, for at least 2 weeks before being voted on, instead of hiding it in locked rooms and being voted on at midnight Fridays and Saturdays. AND, preserves the 60 vote veto proofing, instead of jacking it up to 67 and making it virtually impossible for future Congresses to amendment said bill. Go look at page 1020.

  18. I agree 100% with Ben. As a Conservative, I am just as upset with this recent move as I was with Specter’s jump. But I never considered Specter much of a Republican anyway, so it was not that I was sorry to see him go per se. What it was that upset me so much, and the MAIN reason this should be made illegal by the constitution, is what happens when these switches change the majority party: Committee Leadership. The party in power gets the Committee Chair positions, which really hold the power in the system. Specter’s switch actually changed the balance of power over to the Dem’s, and he was rewarded HANDSOMELY by them for doing so.
    And it is those committee positions that are allowing the Dem’s to railroad this Healthcare debacle through in secret back-room meetings. Hey Obama — what happened to your campaign promise that "the healthcare debate will be carried out in public on C-Span. We will be the most transparent Administration ever." ? Transparent as my backside.
    This reason alone is why it is not as simple as "I am going to vote that way anyway, so I might as well officially change my party."
    And BTW, it is even more disingenuous when they do it because they are trying to block competition in an upcoming election. You ran under one party, you got elected under that party, you stick with that party until the end of your term. Period.

  19. I have no problems with a politician switching parties. But I do agree with you about it being deceitful. here’s a solution, require that the politician switching parting run for reelection 60 days after his announcement in a special election. That way the voters can decide if they want to be represented by the other party.

  20. Not really sure how you’d regulate this – outside of the constitutional issues it would bring. If a candidate can’t switch parties he/she would just caucus with the other party while remaining with their original one, until the next election, that is.
    It’s less of an issue in the house, we can just vote them out after 2 years, the Senate is a tough one, though. Case in point, here in CT we’re stuck with a Senator (Lieberman) who flat out goes against the will of the vast majority of the state residents. He figures he’s got another 4 years before he has to worry about it – maybe we’ll all forget about it by then?
    I think the solution lies with us, the electorate – be more informed, and hold elected representatives accountable. Elections matter.

  21. The concept of a 2-party system is the crux of the matter, not who the person aligns with or how they vote. It is like trying to build a software application and saying that there is only one way or another to do it.
    The issue is that we cannot boil down the sentiment of people to just A or B. There is a lot of ranges in between. But primaries and voting is handled on a party basis, which causes the problem. Just look at how gerrymandering also perpetuates a party’s ability to control who gets elected.
    Why shouldn’t we simply drop the 2 party system? What if the primaries were held with any group of candidates and the top 5 vote getters from that election move on to the final election?
    And what if people were able to "tag" their affiliation with an issue instead of saying that they belong to one party or another? Then a person who is more fiscally conservative can wear that tag, while wanting more social programs in a particular area (elderly, etc.) – they would wear that tag. In the end, you can look at a candidate as a set of tags and determine which candidate’s tag set reflects your opinions?

  22. @Troy – while I completely understand your point about the committees, I believe your response of making it illegal is not proper, rather the fundamental way that committees and their chairs are selected should change. Politicians should be as free to m

  23. The issue of committee membership is an interesting one – we have, in many instances, across party lines, people who are not properly qualified to sit on these committees. It’s an allotment process, not a qualification based system.
    The most glaring example, one that most here could relate to, is the story of Senator Stevens failing to explain how the internet works – while being charged with regulating it.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Series_of_tubes
    If we want good government, we should insist on transparency surrounding the process of filling committee chairs. There are great suggestions regarding changes we should make to the entire political system, however, we can also work within the system to ensure more effective representation by our elected officials.

  24. Ok Ben,
    Valid thoughts, but what happens when the PARTY changes it’s stance, and no longer represents the politician or people who put it into power?
    We put Republicans in office to be fiscally responsible, then the national debt doubles in 10 years.
    We put Democrats in office to enact health care reform, and well..
    The problem is that opinions and beliefs are a moving target, so we have term limits for our representatives. Remember, the USA is not a direct democracy — and that was for a very good reason.

  25. Ben – I disagree. Here’s why: polititicans can’t vote their consious… they vote the way the party tells them to vote. If they cant do that, they have no choice to switch parties.
    Swithching parties isn’t the problem.. it’s the behind-close-doors dealmakiing that is the problem. We have to come to realize that our govermnent is corrupt, and Obama has not been able to do anything about that, in fact, despite his campaing message of ‘change’ this is something that has only gotten worse.
    Here is another interesting analysis..
    http://www.dickmorris.com/blog/2009/12/23/griffiths-party-switch-illustrates-the-death-of-moderate-democrats/

  26. I agree with most here. The 2 party system is a broken system. It doesn’t allow anyone to vote the way the people of their districts want. They have to vote along party lines or they are seen as a traitor to their party. Political parties are crap. People that vote on a party line are just asking for problems.
    You should look at the position of the candidate. Parker Griffith was already a republican and just a dem in name only. If the people of his district have a problem with his voting record they can remove him from office.

  27. While I agree with most here that our 2-party system needs works, that is what we got. And while people should vote on the issues, there are certain requirements of each party whereby the number that caucus with a particular party actually has significant impact.
    For example, fillibusters or votes on laws that will increase the defficit require a majority of 60 votes in the Senate, not just the 50 vote majority.
    Therefore ones party affiliation matters and switching after one runs under a particular party and won is deceitful, and should not be allowed.
    If people did vote on the issues, a new special election should yield the same results. What would the downside of a new election be?

Leave a Reply