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Parker Griffith Switching to Republican Party

Parker GriffithThe news that  a freshman Alabama Congressman Parker Griffith is switching from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party is getting a surprising amount of blogospheric attention.

Will Collier passed on the rumor earlier this morning,  noting,  “That north Alabama seat has been Democratic since time immemorial.”  This got a “Whoa” from Stephen Green and a snarky “Guess he’s probably a no on health care” from Josh Marshall.

Politico‘s Josh Kraushaar reckons that “The switch represents a coup for House Republican leadership, which had been courting Griffith since he publicly criticized Democratic leadership in the wake of raucous town halls over the summer.”

I tend to agree with Matt Yglesias that “The practical implications of this seem to be basically nil—Griffith voted against health reform, voted against the clean energy bill, voted against financial regulatory reform, voted against the stimulus, and at least talked about voting against making Nancy Pelosi speaker.”

Still, he correctly notes, “the implications are still bad. People rarely volunteer to join the minority.”   He sees it as “a reminder that the Democrats’ current huge majority with 257 members isn’t remotely sustainable. To get a majority that big you need to win a lot of districts you just can’t reliable win. Substantial losses in 2010 and/or 2012 are basically inevitable.”

Kraushaar adds, “Griffith’s party switch comes on the eve of a pivotal congressional health care vote and will send a jolt through a Democratic House Caucus that has already been unnerved by the recent retirements of a handful of members who, like Griffith, hail from districts that offer prime pickup opportunities for the GOP in 2010. ”

Of course, the seat has been held consistently by a Democrat since 1866.  But that’s a bit of a red herring.  There was virtually no such thing as a Republican in Alabama until the mid-1980s.  Bud Kramer held the seat from 1991 until this year, following Ronnie Flippo, who’d held the seat since 1977.  Let’s just say that neither of them was exactly a Nancy Pelosi Democrat.

Interestingly, Griffith was “the first Board Certified Radiation Oncologist in North Alabama.”

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. My wife and I grew up in his district, and our parents still live there… and holy crap, we didn’t see this coming. Still, it’s not actually that surprising:

    I tend to agree with Matt Yglesias that “The practical implications of this seem to be basically nil—Griffith voted against health reform, voted against the clean energy bill, voted against financial regulatory reform, voted against the stimulus, and at least talked about voting against making Nancy Pelosi speaker.”

    Speaking as somebody from that district, this is largely true from an election standpoint as well. That seat has been Democratic since reconstruction, but believe me when I say that they were very, VERY Blue Dog. And there have been several very close elections as well.

    I would note that the Obama/Pelosi/Reid administration has done quite a bit to snub southern Democrats, and this kind of thing shouldn’t be entirely unexpected.

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  2. Chatted to me from a coworker and friend who still lives and works in Griffith’s district:

    it’s such an insipid no-op that i don’t even have any feeling about it

    Note that this particular friend trends conservative. Also note that Griffith’s reelection is by no means guaranteed. He barely won the last time around amidst charges of scandal in his medical career – charges that are likely to surface again.

    The 2010 election for that district just became very interesting to me on a personal level, although probably far less so on a national level.

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  3. Also note that this is not without precedent. Alabama Senator Richard Shelby switched from the Democratic party to the Republican party in 1994. I’d be careful about reading too much into that year, although I’m sure somebody will do it.

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  5. James Joyner says:

    Also note that this is not without precedent. Alabama Senator Richard Shelby switched from the Democratic party to the Republican party in 1994. I’d be careful about reading too much into that year, although I’m sure somebody will do it.

    Ah, but Shelby made the switch AFTER the Republicans retook the majority. It was a completely gutless move.

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  6. legion says:

    What I find hilarious is the fact that he’ll still have no allies at all the next time he’s up for election… Red State and the Club for Growth are already dissing him (courtesy TPM), and it doesn’t sound like the voters of his district care much either.

    I don’t know Griffith or anything about him – he may very well have switched for truly-felt moral issues. But how can he not notice that the party he’s joining has no morals whatsoever? He’s moved from being annoying in the majority party to being completely irrelevant in the minority… This is likely the last we’ll ever hear of the man…

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  7. just me says:

    I am not generally bothered by party switches-although I have more respect when they are done Phil Gramm style, but in this case i also can’t see resigning-it isn’t like the party switch changes anything with regard to party leadership.

    I do understand that sometimes the party one begins in isn’t always the party one feels comfortable in later. I was a registered democrat at one point, but during the 1990′s changed parties. It happens, although I wasn’t in office when I switched.

    I can’t help but wonder if part of the reason for the switch wasn’t motivated by a frustration with the democratic party leadership in the house. I could see where being a conservative democrat might be difficult with Pelosi et al as leaders.

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  8. James, you’re absolutely right about Shelby, which is why I don’t think anybody should be extrapolating too much from the parallels here (although I’m certain somebody’s going to).

    Legion, you might want to see my comments on Alex’s post. After some time thinking about it, I agree – I think this smacks of desperation and hurts Griffith more than it helps.

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  9. [...] Parker Griffith Switching to Republican Party (outsidethebeltway.com) [...]

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  11. Lois Fankhauser says:

    Yep…I don’t think we’ll ever hear about/from this guy unless he chooses to be the next “You Lie” person! I just can’t imagine when a person, financially backed by a party, Democratic, makes a switch, especially at a critical time. I guess he will soon be authoring a book. I know Arlen Specter made the switch from Republican to Democratic Party, but of course, this change made sense, and I think was not impulsively done.

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  12. McGehee says:

    Red State and the Club for Growth are already dissing him

    Members/spokespeople for these groups are entitled to their own idiotic opinions — but they might want to consider to what extent the idiocy thereof has contributed to the current makeup of Congress.

    There are issues on which questions of ideological purity may rightly turn, and others on which they may not. I would count this among the latter.

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