Rep. Parker Griffith Bolts to the GOP

A Blue Dog no more. Congressman Parker Griffith has switched his political party affiliation and has joined the minority. It's that latter part that is unusual. While politicians switch parties with a relative frequency, the move is generally one from the minority party to the majority party, and not the inverse. Rep. Griffith is serving his first term in Congress and represents the Alabama Fifth Congressional District that stretches across the northern swath of the state and includes Huntsville. The district has long been a Democratic one. It was last in Republican hands during Reconstruction and a Democrat has held the seat since 1869 apart for a two year hiatus when Albert Taylor Goodwyn, a Populist, held the seat from 1896-1897.

Rep. Griffith, a medical doctor by profession, voted against the economic recovery package, the federal budget, health care reform, the cap and trade energy policy, the financial regulatory reform and even against Ledbetter Gender Pay Equality Act. The story in Politico:

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.

The switch represents a coup for the House Republican leadership, which had been courting Griffith since he publicly criticized the Democratic leadership in the wake of raucous town halls during the summer.

Griffith, who captured the seat in a close 2008 open seat contest, will become the first Republican to hold the historically Democratic, Huntsville-based district. A radiation oncologist who founded a cancer treatment center, Griffith plans to blast the Democratic health care bill as a prime reason for his decision to switch parties--and is expected to cite his medical background as his authority on the subject.

While the timing of his announcement was unexpected, Griffith's party switch will not come as a surprise to those familiar with his voting record, which is one of the most conservative among Democrats.

He has bucked the Democratic leadership on nearly all of its major domestic initiatives, including the stimulus package, health care legislation, the cap-and trade energy bill and financial regulatory reform.

He was one of only 11 House Democrats to vote against the stimulus.

"Look at his voting record - he's had substantial differences philosophically with the Democratic agenda here in Congress," said an Alabama ally who is familiar with Griffith's decision. "It's something that's been discussed for the last several months... talking to people in his family. And it genuinely is a reflection of where he feels. It's his own personal conviction."

The move negates the gain in the NY-23. It also reflects a broad realignment of political forces and a deepening regional polarization that is taking place. Matt Yglesias also makes a key point over at Think Progress noting 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. That said, there are still a few GOP-held House seats that could plausibly be won by a reliably liberal Democrat. The real issue is whether the Democratic majority can add a few seats like that, and contain losses enough to maintain 220-230 reasonably reliable votes and thus the effective ability to govern.

I wrote the other day that I expected a Jacksonian reaction against the Party. This counts as part of that reaction.

Tags: AL-05, Blue Dogs, Rep. Parker Griffith (all tags)

Comments

44 Comments

Re: Rep. Parker Griffith Bolts to the GOP

Good Stuff. Wonder who recruited this Boob anyway.

Glad to see he's joined the party of Np. Maybe now we can ask him about their Health Care plan, their economic recovery plan and their foreign policy plan. Oh right, they have none.

by vecky 2009-12-22 08:37AM | 0 recs
Re: Rep. Parker Griffith Bolts to the GOP

 I'm pretty sure this proves something.

by QTG 2009-12-22 08:40AM | 0 recs
Re: Rep. Parker Griffith Bolts to the GOP

IMHO it proves that the divisions and the concern regarding real healthcare reform is strong enough for a re-aligning election to occur. The received wisdom inside the beltway is that many so called safe seats this year in 2010 are now no longer safe - and the incumbents are concerned regarding their electoral chances.

The GOP is not getting stronger by having a weak republican (which is what this guy is) join their ranks. Remember, the house has like. 200 or more guys so this represents a very small gain - its not like a senator bolting to the GOP...

But in the end, the GOP will be immeasurably strengthened if the voices of the lobbyists are heard over the voices of those who will actually be voting in 2010 ... on the issue of healthcare reform.

And thats why I stand with Dr. Dean. and not Dr. Parker Griffith.

by Trey Rentz 2009-12-22 08:52AM | 0 recs
Re: Rep. Parker Griffith Bolts to the GOP

Ummm, you know Griffith voted against the House Bill. Hell he voted against the SCHIP expansion.

http://www.al.com/news/huntsvilletimes/l ocal.ssf?/base/news/1256894154137720.xml &coll=1

by vecky 2009-12-22 09:08AM | 0 recs
Re: Rep. Parker Griffith Bolts to the GOP

He also voted against equal pay for women and trashed Nancy Pelosi. I say good riddance! He is not even a Blue Dog, he is a Republican. I wonder how he even won as a Democrat in that district.

by Lolis 2009-12-22 09:12AM | 0 recs
DINO

It was a democratic year, and if you're a fence sitter, what better way to slip in to the house than as a democrat. This guy clearly is a republican.

We've seen three retirements and one party switch from the democratic side, but nowhere near the levels that preceded 1994, as Jonathan Singer just recently noted.

It's a long way to the 2010 election, and anything can happen. Some losses are inevitible. But if they're DINOs and Blue Dogs, does it matter?

I still fail to see any of the indicators that there will be a realignment election.

Later on in the thread, Steve M points out that three Republican congressmen are rumored to be retiring.

by NoFortunateSon 2009-12-22 09:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Rep. Parker Griffith Bolts to the GOP

right, he bolted to the GOP as opposition to the bill including the house bill - it was not perfect by any means... but it was a good start.

and thats the reason why I don't stand with him.
as I said, I stand with Dr. Dean and not Doc Parker on this issue.

by Trey Rentz 2009-12-22 10:21AM | 0 recs
Re: Rep. Parker Griffith Bolts to the GOP

What's funny is that the teabaggers are ready to primary this guy in the republican primary for not being "conservative enough" for him...

Would be sweet justice if he lost the primary!

The guy's a weasel, anyways... he's a total coward, siding with the teabaggers against the people... at least he won't be stealing DCCC money for no votes.

by LordMike 2009-12-22 08:46AM | 0 recs
NY-23 Part Deux

It would by hysterical. I don't know what this guy is thinking, if he is thinking anything.

But it looks like his Republican challengers aren't going to back down.

Way to forfeit a house seat!

by NoFortunateSon 2009-12-22 10:01AM | 0 recs
Re: pardon

You can take your GOP talking points elsewhere. Maybe if they stopeed wearing Tea bags all around their heads the name wouldn't stick so.

by vecky 2009-12-22 11:47AM | 0 recs
Re: im telling ya how to beat

Touchy much. I merely pointed out your use of GOP talking points. But if you want to go ahead and claim the title of a full on Rethug, go ahead!

by vecky 2009-12-22 02:26PM | 0 recs
Re: pardon

Yet, all the names the GOP calls us is somehow endearing to independents, so we should just sit back and let them bully us...

The teabaggers are teabaggers... that's what they call themselves, and that's what they are.  Period.  

Cozying up to the GOP isn't going to win independents, either, BTW...  Parker Griffeth is in for a rude awakening.  

by LordMike 2009-12-22 11:52AM | 0 recs
Re: Rep. Parker Griffith Bolts to the GOP

Good riddance. We need to stop electing Democrats who refuse to support the party in any meaningful way.

by JDF 2009-12-22 08:50AM | 0 recs
Re: Rep. Parker Griffith Bolts to the GOP

We will clean house in 2010 if the HCR ends up being a half-measure and both sides of the aisle will see losses.

by Trey Rentz 2009-12-22 08:52AM | 0 recs
Who's "we"?

the polling, so far, does not support your hypothesis.

by NoFortunateSon 2009-12-22 10:04AM | 0 recs
Re: Who's "we"?

give me a break. Polls this early in the cycle are meaningless.

by Trey Rentz 2009-12-22 10:22AM | 0 recs
Re: Who's "we"?

That was a poll on HCR not he 2010 elections.

by vecky 2009-12-22 11:48AM | 0 recs
They're only not meaningless...

...when the democrats are doomed!

Give me a break.

It was a recent poll on support for healthcare reform.

by NoFortunateSon 2009-12-22 12:30PM | 0 recs
Re: Rep. Parker Griffith Bolts to the GOP

if the consequence of electing Democrats is giant amounts of corporate welfare to the companies that have been victimizing us (Insurance, Banking, etc), and agreements to restrict abortion coverage.....

why should we go out and work to elect or reelect more of them?

by jeopardy 2009-12-22 09:03AM | 0 recs
Re: Rep. Parker Griffith Bolts to the GOP

Sadly, that's the best answer I have for you, and the Democrats in charge know it.

The challenge is for progressives to learn how to effect change and get what they want while in power.

by NoFortunateSon 2009-12-22 10:09AM | 0 recs
Re: Rep. Parker Griffith Bolts to the GOP

Palin is not going to be running against Obama in 2012

But either way, we get corporate whores screwing over the American people to further enrich fat cats.

I used to be able to vote for the Democrats because they were not into corporate welfare as much as the GOP., Now, the Dems are representing Wall St. and Insurance companies instead of me.

by jeopardy 2009-12-22 10:49AM | 0 recs
When will progressive take up the cause...

...of Buckley v. Valeo? We keep fighting the wrong battles. Look at how far abortion opponents have come with an unpopular position against Roe v. Wade? Imagine how far we could go with a popular position (overturn Buckley v. Valeo)?

I used to be able to vote for the Democrats because they were not into corporate welfare as much as the GOP., Now, the Dems are representing Wall St. and Insurance companies instead of me.
I understand the sentiment, although I personally think the basis for your hypothesis may be a little overwrought.

But "We're Less Evil!" isn't really a campaign slogan.

Much good has been accomplished in the 110th Congress and Senate. Let's not overlook that, for if the GOP controlled either house, the steady march the the ruin of America would surely continue.

by NoFortunateSon 2009-12-22 11:01AM | 0 recs
Re: When will progressive take up the cause...

no, throwing Americans to the wolves (Insurance Monopolies) without proper protections, IS the correct thing to battle.

by jeopardy 2009-12-22 11:17AM | 0 recs
Re: When will progressive take up the cause...

Quit the hyperbole, it's getting tiring.

Americans are already at the mercy of the wolves. This bill adds some protections and caps payments for those who need help the most.

by vecky 2009-12-22 11:50AM | 0 recs
Re: When will progressive take up the cause...

this bill takes away the one main power people had to keep themselves from away from the insurance monopolies - that is, not buying from them.

Meanwhile, it delivers millions of new customers to them and further enshrines the for=profit system into law.

and all the meaningful "reforms" like recission are toothless - they don't even include anything about enforcing them.

by jeopardy 2009-12-22 12:07PM | 0 recs
Point by point hyperbole

"...this bill takes away the one main power people had to keep themselves from away from the insurance monopolies - that is, not buying from them...."
I disagree and find this argument very backlash conservative in nature. We all have an inherent responsibility towards society. Every American must be covered so that those of us with insurance aren't paying for your emergency room visits. I agree strongly with mandates for this reason alone.
"...Meanwhile, it delivers millions of new customers to them and further enshrines the for=profit system into law..."
I really feel you've been reading too much Huff 'n Puff online.

I understand your sentiment and your fear, and I do empathize with you. But one is subscribing to conspiracy theories to believe that this bill enshrines a for-profit system into law.

First, we're not running the insurance companies out of business. As evil as they are... and as tempting as it is... That's one reason why the progressive movement failed on the public option -- in bloodlust, they sought to drive private insurers out of business and engineer a government takeover of the insurance system. These corporations may be evil, but America isn't about driving existing companies out of business and taking them over by the government. I understand the justifiable desire, but that is a fringe notion, and one not held by the democratic party or a majority of America. Any reform has to work with the existing private insurance system. The purpose of the PO from the Democrats' perspective, and it was one of many options, was to control costs and provide a public option to those forced to choose between private insurers. the progressives took the PO and ran with it as a tool to bankrupt private insurers. I do strongly support the PO, but one that is big enough only to control costs, and not big enough to put private insurance companies out of business.

Second, a careful review of America would reveal that the only insurance institutions enshrined into law are public options and single payer systems.

and all the meaningful "reforms" like recission are toothless - they don't even include anything about enforcing them.
The Senators seem to disagree with this net meme.
by NoFortunateSon 2009-12-22 12:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Point by point hyperbole


    "...this bill takes away the one main power people had to keep themselves from away from the insurance monopolies - that is, not buying from them...."

I disagree and find this argument very backlash conservative in nature. We all have an inherent responsibility towards society. Every American must be covered so that those of us with insurance aren't paying for your emergency room visits. I agree strongly with mandates for this reason alone.
____

i'm not sure if you are really just not getting it or if you are deliberately trying to twist what i'm saying.

I am absolutely NOT ok with the status quo. People are getting raped by the insurance industry.

My point about the only power people have currently against the insurance industry is to not buy it is correct. But let me make this totally clear - it is unacceptable. That's why we need real reform.

However, it IS the only power people have right now, and this bill takes it away.

Monopolies (yes, they are monopolies) raise prices until prices get high enough that people stop buying the product altogether. Right now, insurance is at monopoly pricing levels. IT WILL GO UP EVEN MORE if there is nothing stopping them from pricing people out of the market - if people legally HAVE to buy from them, and if any raise in prices is covered by the Government and/or people being forced to buy it.

Do you understand the point now? Don't go get all moralistic on me when you are the one arguing to force people to pay those evil bastards money and trying to enshrine into law the right for Insurance CEOs to rip of Americans.

by jeopardy 2009-12-22 01:15PM | 0 recs
Re: When will progressive take up the cause...

"this bill takes away the one main power people had to keep themselves from away from the insurance monopolies - that is, not buying from them."

Think awhile - how has this "power" helped? It has not, insurance execs don't care, infact they want less people covered.

Meanwhile the number of people who want insurance far outnumber those who do not. And that ratio keeps going up & up.

by vecky 2009-12-22 02:30PM | 0 recs
Re: When will progressive take up the cause...

Fewer.  They want "fewer" people covered!!!

by Steve M 2009-12-22 02:36PM | 0 recs
Did you even read Buckley v. Valeo?

Why do you think our legislators behave the way they do?

by NoFortunateSon 2009-12-22 12:31PM | 0 recs
Re: Rep. Parker Griffith Bolts to the GOP

A nice catch here by Ben Smith (via TWI):

http://washingtonindependent.com/71752/d oes-parker-griffith-still-hate-america

by Jason Williams 2009-12-22 09:06AM | 0 recs
Re: Rep. Parker Griffith Bolts to the GOP

I don't care if the seat has been Democratic since forever, when you have a seat in the Deep South with a PVI of R+12, that seat is as good as gone.  Sounds like this guy wasn't with us on anything of significance anyway.

by Steve M 2009-12-22 09:09AM | 0 recs
Re: Rep. Parker Griffith Bolts to the GOP

Extactly.  This guy wasn't in the Democratic Party when he was in the Democratic Party.  No loss.

by fogiv 2009-12-22 10:04AM | 0 recs
Re: lord-steve-lord!

Sounds like there are absolutely no similarities between the two races other than the fact that your rep plans to vote against health care.

Seriously... I know you're not stupid... you look at a PVI R+12 district in the Deep South and say, "oh, no reason that seat shouldn't go Dem"?

by Steve M 2009-12-22 11:29AM | 0 recs
Sounds like a GOP district then

And an uphill battle.

by NoFortunateSon 2009-12-22 12:25PM | 0 recs
Re: lord-steve-lord!

Did your candidate vote against the stimulus, against the energy bill, against financial reform?  Griffith did.

Districts like you're describing are a tough hold but the long-term trend is not nearly as hopeless as it would be in the Deep South.  I certainly wouldn't have advised Republicans to switch parties en masse in 1981 just because Reagan was going through a popularity lull.

by Steve M 2009-12-22 01:29PM | 0 recs
Re: lord-steve-lord!

Your congressman sounds a lot like you. Maybe he should follow your example ans go to the "other side".

Enjoy!

by vecky 2009-12-22 02:32PM | 0 recs
A foolish self destructive move by Griffith.

He will be a gonner in the Republican primaries. None of his Republican opponents are backing down.

by louisprandtl 2009-12-22 09:12AM | 0 recs
I am with mooncat

at the Left in Alabama blog:

Point 1:  Parker Griffith should refund every dime of money he took to run as a Democrat.  Call him

Washington, DC Office: (202) 225-4801

Huntsville District Office: (256) 551-0190

Decatur District Office: 256-355-9400

Shoals District Office: 256-381-3450

or click here to email him and say you want every dime of your contributions back, no excuses.

by desmoinesdem 2009-12-22 09:15AM | 0 recs
This is how the GOP in his state see him

He has gone from Dem to GOP, and in his state that means real competition in a primary race...

Take a look at this :

http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2009/ 12/flashback-gop-accused-griffith-of-abu sing-cancer-patients-cheering-for-radica l-islam.php

TPM says he 'abuses cancer patients' and 'cheers radical islam'

Lol. This guy has bit off more than he can chew.

by Trey Rentz 2009-12-22 10:53AM | 0 recs
Re: Rep. Parker Griffith Bolts to the GOP

It is clear that the recruitment process to succeed Rep. Bud Cramer was handled poorly.

Say what you will about Parker Griffith but look at the course of history and the nature of this district. The district is one of very few that has yet to elect a Republican since Reconstruction. It was actually among the first to re-elect a Democrat back in 1869.

From Wikipedia:

Two major economic projects have lastingly impacted the 5th District and have indelibly dictated the politics of North Alabama for most of the 20th Century. Before 1933, the Northern Alabama counties were characteristically poor, white and rural. The Tennessee Valley Authority's (TVA) arrival changed much of that, slowly transforming the demographic towards technical and engineering employees. The second major project was the space and rocketry programs including Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville where the first large U.S. Ballistic missiles were developed. Additionally, NASA built the Marshall Space Flight Center in the Huntsville-Decatur area during the 1960s. In the late 1950s Northern Alabama came to be dominated by the high-tech and engineering industries, a trend which has continued up to the present. In recent years, the United Launch Alliance has located its research center in Decatur. As a result, Huntsville has become the third largest and fastest growing metropolitan area in Alabama.

Thus the politics of the 5th District have been dominated over the past 70 or so years by liberal economics and disinterest in social issues - the hallmarks of the New Deal Democratic tradition in Northern Alabama. However, the Democratic stranglehold on this district has slowly loosened over the past two decades with the onset of civil rights and later traditional values as important political issues in the area. As such, liberal politics have become an increasingly hard sell, and the region has increasingly voted for Republican presidential candidates since the defeat of Jimmy Carter. Democrats, however, still hold most offices at the local level, as well as most of the district's seats in the Alabama state legislature. Also, the district is one of only a few in the former Confederacy that has not elected a Republican to the U.S. Congress since Reconstruction. In the mid-1990s it was a seriously contested seat, with longtime incumbent Bud Cramer (D) winning by a narrow 50% vote in 1994. Since then, however, Cramer has taken over 70% of the vote in every election since 1998 and even ran unopposed in the Democratic landslide year of 2006. Cramer did not seek reelection in 2008. Parker Griffith (D), a retired oncologist and State Senator, won the open seat in November 2008. Government spending and New Deal-esque economics is still the other big issue in this district, and every successful candidate for the seat since the 1930s has been most interested in garnering government contracts and continued financial support for federal programs in the region.

Despite the Democratic strength in the district at the local and state levels, George W. Bush still won 60% of the vote in this district in 2004. John McCain also carried the 5th District in 2008 with 60.91% of the vote while Barack Obama received 37.99%.

Huntsville is a product of Democratic governance, to lose it would be devastating. I hope the DCCC gets it right.

by Charles Lemos 2009-12-22 12:11PM | 0 recs
Re: Rep. Parker Griffith Bolts to the GOP

Another product of Rahm's brilliance...  and these guys are considered to be untouchable to him, even when they stab him in the back...

by LordMike 2009-12-22 12:48PM | 0 recs
Re: Rep. Parker Griffith Bolts to the GOP

Civil rights trump the TVA and New Deal. This seat was lost to the Dems a long time ago... Bob Cramer (D) the previous occupant voted for the Bush tax cuts, one of the few house Dems to do so.

Hey Shelby used to be a D at one time too.

by vecky 2009-12-22 02:38PM | 0 recs
So by "Jacksonian" reaction

You meant that people who had never supported the Democratic Party's agenda would . . . continue to not support the Democratic Party's agenda.

Huh.

I nevertheless look forward to the entertaining series of posts that will expound on how this and future events are "Jacksonian" in nature.

by Drew 2009-12-22 09:43PM | 0 recs

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