Regular readers know where I stand on switching parties. It makes perfect sense for Republicans to switch to the Democratic Party. For one thing, the modern Democratic Party really is a big tent. But more to the point: the Democratic Party has moved aggressively to the right. If a Republican had just held onto his beliefs since 1985, he would now be in the mainstream of the Democratic Party. (Similarly, someone like me who fit into the mainstream of the Democratic Party in 1985 now finds himself crammed at the liberal edge of the modern party.) In addition to this, I understand how people slowly move with their parties: humans are social animals and there is nothing surprising or even really bad about this.
But what are we to make of people who were in the Democratic Party for years and one day decided, “That Democratic Party has just gotten too liberal”? I’m not talking about people who have political conversions. I understand that as well. People have blinding insights in which the whole world looks different. Often those insights are idiotic. (See, for example, Christopher Hitchens.) But one rarely hears this. Usually it is simply that they stayed just the same and the Democratic Party got (quickly or slowly) all ultra-liberal.
Think about that for a second. The Democratic Party wasn’t liberal under Johnson when a huge new entitlement program Medicare was started. It wasn’t liberal when Clinton tried and failed to enact healthcare reform that was more liberal than Obamacare. But now! Those liberal Democrats have gone over to the dark side. This is the argument that these people are making. I don’t see the sense in it. These people are moving from a large and expanding ideological pool to a small and shrinking one.
Last week, Louisiana Republican Representative Rodney Alexander announced that he is retiring. He is one of these people. From 1988 to 2004, he was a Democrat. But in 2004, according to Wikipedia, he ran as a “Republican, changing parties on 6 August 2004, only three months before the election and only 30 minutes before the filing deadline, ensuring that no Democrat could challenge him. The move was widely derided as being ‘cowardly’.” You remember 2004: the Abu Ghraib torture that was implicitly (If not explicitly!) sanctioned by the administration; allowing North Korea to get the bomb; and Bush being the first president since Herbert Hoover to have net job losses during a four year term. Alexander had to get in on all of that!
On the New York Times editorial page, Juliet Lapidos noted something very interesting about Alexander’s reason for retiring. He said he couldn’t take the gridlock. Meanwhile, he voted to repeal Obamacare each of the 40 times the useless bill came up. But it is not too surprising that the Abu Ghraib, North Korea, Jobless Recovery guy would also be hysterically opposed to Obamacare. People who move from Democrat to Republican are either crazy or political opportunists or both. I don’t know which one Alexander is for sure (both I would guess), but there is no doubt with his retirement statements, he is a hypocrite.