Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Changing Parties

It seems pretty clear to me that the era of changing parties may be over for awhile. It used to be that changing parties was a good way for a politician feeling the sands shifting beneath him (and I actually can't think of a leading political woman switching parties) to get reelected. No more. With Arlen Specter losing the Democratic primary for Senate from Pennsylvania and Parker Griffith getting crushed while running as a Republican in Alabama yesterday, it's hard to see how politicians can justify switching parties. As both parties become more dominated by their base, distrust of party switchers is strong. The days of 1994, when dozens of southern Democrats became Republicans in the wake of the Gingrich takeover of the House, are long gone.

I think there are two exceptions to this. One is when a politician is adored. It might be possible for a Susan Collins or Olympia Snowe to switch to the Democrats because a majority of Maine residents like them. The other way to do this is to become an independent--think Joe Lieberman and Charlie Crist. What Crist will do if he wins the general election is unclear. He could align with the Republicans and become a moderate voice. He could tack to the right to try and reclaim a Republican mantle. He could become a conservative Democrat. Either way, he'll have a lot of power coming into the Senate this way, with the body so politicized. Of course, he has to win first, but given that Kendrick Meek is plummeting as Florida Democrats turn to someone who has a chance to beat Marco Rubio, that seems like a strong possibility.