Topic: Government & Politics

Rodney Alexander, Turncoat
(8/15/2004)

Democrats are screaming bloody murder at the last minute party switch pulled by Rodney Alexander, a formerly Democratic Congressman from Louisiana who suddenly is calling himself a Republican. It is too late to get a Democratic challenger for his seat on the November 2 ballot, meaning that the GOP has two viable candidates and the Democrats none. Meanwhile, Republican are chuckling, following conservative icon Rush Limbaugh in calling Alexander's turn-coat act a "neat trick" that ups the slim Republican margin in the House by one.

It isn't a "neat trick." Alexander's switch was unethical, a blatant cheat of the voters and a fraud on his party. Democrats would be right to be outraged…if they hadn't cheered so loudly when the shoe was on the other foot.

That shoe, one should recall, was Vermont Republican Senator Jim Jeffords, whose "trick" was even worse than Alexander's. He abandoned the GOP right after his election, all on principle, he said, as he accepted powerful committee assignments from the gloating Democrats. The fact that the Republican Party had financed part of his campaign and the fact that loyal Republican Vermonters had voted for him based on his party affiliation didn't seem to matter to Democrats then. Jeffords was a "man of principle." He just picked an especially unprincipled way to be one.

There is an ethical template for this kind of switch, you see. Former Texas Senator Phil Gramm decided mid-term that he wanted to be a Republican rather than a Democrat, so he resigned his seat, and ran again for it under his new party affiliation. Bingo. That's the way you do it: fair, open, honest. And effective: Gramm won handily.

In today's revolting blood-feud political climate, perhaps Gramm's conduct is too high a standard to expect, but that doesn't change the fact that Alexander should be sent packing purely on the basis that he has shown himself unworthy of public trust. The Republicans, if they had any sense of fair play at all, should welcome him with a chilly stare and a turned back, not with open arms. And the Democrats should point their fingers directly into the mirror as they cry foul. They endorsed this tactic, and benefited from it. Two wrongs don't make a right, but that doesn't mean that anyone should have much sympathy for the party that cheered the wrong the first time around.

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