The Switch

Daily Chronicle, Ear to Ear, May 2005:

My name is Bill Hoffman. And you can use my name in the paper. What has happened to the Republican Party that I grew up with? I’m 69 years old. I remember moderate conservative Republicans such as Gerald Ford, the elder Bush, General Eisenhower and Jack Kemp. These are people I could live with. They were conservative, but they had a sense of caring about people – people who were having a hard time. Now we have George Bush the younger and his mean-spirited group in Washington, and they seem only to care about corporate interests. They have fought over funding for Medicaid for the poor; they don’t want to raise the minimum wage, which is really low now. They stopped drugs from being imported from Canada because of pressure from the drug companies. They have basically ruined the environment – which is a disgrace. Bush and the Christian right – which I don’t consider Christian or right – seem to want to rule this country, and they are only a minority. I usually vote Democratic on the national level, but on the state level, I have voted for Republicans more than I have Democrats. I have no problem voting for Republicans such as Gov. Thompson, Jim Edgar or Judy Baar Topinka who might run for governor – I’ll probably vote for her. But the Republicans, with the likes of Dennis Hastert, our wonderful representative and speaker of the House, have ruined the party in the state and made it the laughingstock of the nation. They forced out Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, the conservative that I respect. They put that carpetbagger up who came in from Maryland. I’m really opposed to the way the Republican Party is going.

Mr. Hoffman’s statement stuck in my mind because it reflects my views very well. I also thought it was gutsy. Remember, at the time critics of the party in charge were met with the sinister “you’re either with us or against us” attitude. I wrote letters to the editor regularly then and recall a momentary queasiness upon tapping the “send” button.

There is more than one way to force a change in direction of this pendulum. One is to support real conservatives who will rein in their brethren run amok. Another is to support a vigorous opposition via the swing vote. A third way is wholesale abandonment of the party that no longer represents your values–a la the Whigs–and I’m here to tell you that I’ve spotted something of a trend in this area.

All of these party switches have occurred quite recently. Let’s start with a local, John Noverini, who is running for judge in the 16th Circuit.

I have resigned as the Republican Precinct Committeeman for Precinct 27 Dundee Township. In so doing, I have also resigned as Chairman of the Dundee Township Republican Central Committee, Inc.

I believe the leadership of the Illinois Republican Party has lost their way. It has become a party of exclusion, not inclusion — a party where ideas and accomplishment consistently take second place to ideology and the status quo. As a result, the Republican leadership in Illinois has lost touch with the average voter, lacks the ability to communicate a consistent message and direction and has single handedly rendered themselves irrelevant.

I, on the other hand, have not lost my way. I am a conservative, who is genuinely concerned about my community and fellow human beings. I believe in public service — in both my personal and professional life.

Then there’s Colorado state rep. Debbie Stafford.

“I am not leaving the Republican Party as much as the Republican Party left me,” Stafford said. “I decided it was time to place myself, and my self-respect, … with the Democratic Party.”

A New Jersey town has switched too. That’s right–a town.

In a rare shift in party affiliation, the entire membership of the all-Republican governing body in Lyndhurst will switch from Republican to Democrat tomorrow. Nearly 60% of Lyndhurst’s Republican County Committee will become Democrats too.

The party realignment, first reported in PoliticsNJ.com last summer, is far greater in scope than speculated. It represents, perhaps, the most massive shift in Party affiliation of elected and Party officials in a single community in one day. “It’s safe to say something like this certainly doesn’t happen in politics everyday,” said Lyndhurst Mayor Richard DiLascio.

If one must assign motivation it would have to be done on an individual basis. They can’t all be rats leaving a sinking ship.