Political Switching

by Marilyn Muir, LPMAFA

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A tremendous amount of confusion occurred with the 2008 election process. I could have sworn a Democratic Party majority was elected in 2008. It is difficult to maintain that conclusion by the antics of the Republican Party and the so-called Blue Dog Democrats. The Republican and Democrat parties have been at logistical war for decades, as have all the parties, and this began with the first President of the U.S., George Washington. That president asked that his constituents not polarize into competing factions, but they did not listen to him. By his second term, they had polarized into parties. That the Republicans would be at odds with the Democrats is not unusual. I may not like many techniques and methods being used, but the disagreements themselves are common. This recent Republican minority does not seem to understand that they were voted out of power by an electorate that was dissatisfied with their performance and their legacy of power.

It is those who are elected by a party, using the party platform, party funding, and party voters, who then vote outside what they themselves ran on and promised to their voters that concern me. This is especially true when they join as a voting block of legislators immediately after the election and designate themselves as an intermediately placed group. That smacks of predetermination and outright dishonesty in the primary and election process. If independents or Blue Dogs is who they were, they should have run on that platform instead of misrepresenting their position as Democrats. I don’t have a problem with them being independent, saying so, getting the support, funding and votes according to their stated positions. I do have a problem with them holding themselves out falsely to the voters, taking advantage of the existing situation. 

Before you think I want everyone to vote strictly a party ticket, I do not. Each Congressional member is unique and that is how it should be. There are liberals, conservatives and moderates in any group of people. Politics itself is the art of compromise. Each person is voted into office by an electorate who expects a certain behavior from their representative because of the platform on which that representative ran. At the end of any day, the vote comes from within the individual. That being said, I do want every member of Congress to remember that when they run on a particular party ticket, they lead every voter to believe that those would be the principles they would represent if we gave them the job. Based on their presentation of themselves, we then voted. If you did not have those values, you had no right to run on that ticket. That is not “politics”. That, to me, is a lie.  Do not hold yourself out to be something you are not. If it isn’t the truth, it is a lie. If you represent yourself to be one thing and you know at that moment that you do not intend to honor that representation, you are worse than a liar. You lack character and integrity. You had no right to solicit my vote based on that lie.

The American people voted as a collective to end the nonsense that was going on up to that moment in time. We should not do the famous pendulum swing clear in the other direction, because too far left is no better than too far right. Our elected representatives should at least move in the direction that we the voters chose on election day, which is forward, and do what is necessary to fix what is wrong. If you ran and were elected on a particular platform you should do it in the manner in which you advertised yourself. Switching sides soon after your election can be considered a lie because it certainly isn’t the truth.

After the 2009 presidential inauguration, the news reported that long-time conservative Senator Arlen Specter chose to change parties from Republican to Democrat. How do I feel now about that party switch based on what I said earlier in this article? Hmmm! Senator Specter has been a solid conservative for four terms and is seeking his fifth term on the Republican ticket. His original party lost votes big time in 2008 in the northeast (he is from Pennsylvania). Senator Specter is uncertain that: 1) his party can win and 2) he individually can win. Does that give him the right to “switch” so he can try to get a better voting conclusion? I do not know the direct answer to that question. Every voter in Pennsylvania will have to become better informed before that question can be answered. So what can we look at to make our decision?

Look at his voting record. Look at his political affiliations. Who does he spend time with, take to lunch, side with? What issues does he champion? What issues does he veto? He claims to be a moderate Republican but does his voting record over the past 24 years support that? His voting record appears to me to be relatively independent for a conservative; his has been a swing vote several times. Was his personally broadcast stance of being solidly behind the last regime merely window dressing for the eight years of that administration?

To be fair, the moderates in the Republican party seem to be in no-man’s land at the moment as the hard-liners are skewing the party further and further to the right. A moderate would not be comfortable with that new position within his/her own party. Do they stay with their party or move on? That is a legitimate question. Senator Specter is not alone in his distress as a Republican. Did he act on that distress and declare his intention to change political parties because he felt like an outsider in his own party that has become more and more influenced by the hard, right liners and radical pundits? Or is his switch of parties a desperate attempt to hang on to power as has been suggested? Or does the Democratic party more nearly match his current political stance? These are huge questions facing the Pennsylvania voters in the upcoming elections. These are also huge questions facing the Democratic party as they welcome a Republican into their midst for another six years of service. Can a fiscal conservative be on the side of hope and change? Is his change of heart real?

Did Senator Specter sell himself to his voting public one way and then act differently when he got into position as I described in my earlier writing? Or is this a legitimate shift in consciousness, which none of us can fault. We are entitled to change our minds if we feel it is warranted. Why, is the real question. I think Senator Specter stayed reasonably true to his initial representation for four election processes; voting somewhat independently seems to be a way of life for him. He didn’t move to the right, his party did. He was faced with a decision, made it, switched parties, and now it is up to the voters in his state to determine whether or not he will continue. He has clearly stated his position and his reasons and the rest is up to his state’s voters. While he might have made a political decision (every single politically motivated person would do this), he declared his position and intent and I can’t fault that.

Before you complain that I do not like Republicans, take the same long, hard look at the Blue Dog Democrats on the other side of the political aisle. Many of them will be up for re-election as well over the next few elections. Do not be fooled by either party. A big rock is a big rock whether it is painted blue or red.  Conformity versus change is really stirring things up and it isn’t over yet.

While we are at it, what happened to Senator Joe Lieberman. He ran on Gore’s Democratic ticket as Vice President. He has been anything but a Democrat in the intervening years, but has chosen to run as an independent and been re-elected. From my point of view, he leans Republican. This week I was watching a news conference and there he was standing in a Republican group. Actions speak louder than words. Talk can be cheap. Look at the natural affiliation and the legislative voting record for the truth. If he holds himself out to be independent but votes continually on one side of the aisle, there’s a discrepancy between what he says and what he does. His voting should show the independence he claims.

The losing party in any election is not usually in a good mood and they do their very best to hamstring those who were elected through congressional actions. It doesn’t matter which side won or lost. I’m sure you can see how much success this would create. This is not what our Founding Fathers necessarily wanted, but it is what we have. Congress, being equally powerful to the president, often believes it does not need to listen to the public who elected them. Once in office, you’re in, and the campaigning and promises mean very little. If our leader is in the opposition party to the Congress, that Congress gets to promote its own agenda hoping to make the leader look bad. Alternately, it might choose to disable the presidential agenda so a leader from their own party can successfully be elected next time. I think this makes running the country just about as successful as my previous statement, don’t you? The best example that comes to mind at the moment is (unfortunately) another Republican/Democrat pairing: Newt Gingrich versus President Clinton between 1994 and 1996. If you want to know what happened, look it up. Just be sure to look up facts (non-partisan) and not personal opinions (partisan).

I wish with all my heart that we could manage to elect individuals in Congress who remember why they were elected. It was not to play obstructionist when you can’t get your own way. It was not to manipulate, scheme, plot, plan, or power play for a national party. It was not for sexual favors and trysts. It was not for photo ops and sound bites. It was not to be wined and dined by lobbyists seeking special favors. It was not for really good jobs as future lobbyists in their field of expertise. It was not to get good insurance and a retirement plan. It was not to make themselves independently wealthy. Public servants are not better than those they supposedly serve. Our officials were elected as our brightest and our best, to honor and serve the U.S. and its citizens. They are our representatives in all matters that could not be served by public vote (referendum). They are supposed to be running the country to the best of their ability, not participating in the ruin of our country.

Published on EZing online October, 2009, republished with slight editing.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.