Jim Jeffords: Party of One
June 27, 2001 12:45 PM   Subscribe

Jim Jeffords: Party of One I got so sad reading reading this article. The "Singing Senators" have disbanded because Lott and Craig want nothing to do with him. His picture was placed in a urinal at a Republican club. His wife and son are pissed. (His son threatened to name his child Reagan Nixon Jeffords.)
posted by jennak (58 comments total)
 
The part of the article that blew me away, however, was this quote from good ol' Ari:

"It still is hard to understand how the senator could be comfortable in the Republican Party under Ronald Reagan and comfortable when Newt Gingrich and the House Republicans were trying to shut down the Department of Education, and now he's uncomfortable when George W. Bush wants to increase funding for the Department of Education?"

Wait...did Ari just admit that Reagan was a right-wing nut and that so were the House Republicans during Gingrich?

(Actually, Ari: "In 1981, [Jeffords] was the only House Republican to vote against the Reagan tax cut plan, en route to compiling one of the most liberal voting records a Republican member of Congress has had over the past three decades.")
posted by jennak at 12:52 PM on June 27, 2001


I dunno Jenna, politics aside, these guys were his friends, and to betray your friends (and I'm certain that's how they see it) carries consequences. Take that, and then throw the political aspect in there... Plus, I've known a few politicians, and you'd be amazed at how interwoven their political and personal lives are. I believe that the Republicans truly do see this as a very personal betrayal.

The dumb part is that he didn't even become a Democrat and gain a new set of friends. At the very least, he should have betrayed one side for the other side. Instead, he threw himself into a political limbo, all downside, no gain.

Say what you will about his motives, it was definitely not a politically savvy move. And the timing sucked (for the Republicans), which makes their enmity towards him even worse, since there will be further consequences than just the personal side. This guy is going to have to run for election again, and he is going to have to face a well-funded, well-motivated Republican with plenty (plenty!) of party support - the Republicans are going to want to crucify him. And personally, I think they'll succeed - he's toast come next election.
posted by UncleFes at 1:12 PM on June 27, 2001


i have no idea, but i get the feeling that vermonters aren't quite that venomous about the whole thing.
posted by elsar at 1:17 PM on June 27, 2001


Ummmm, UncleFes, have you ever been to Vermont?
Ever hear of Bernie Sanders? Jeffords will NOT face re-election defeat. I have my fedora and tabasco sauce at the ready.
posted by machaus at 1:19 PM on June 27, 2001


Bernie Sanders, in the house!
posted by iceberg273 at 1:23 PM on June 27, 2001


Why is this at all surprising? You stab a bunch of your friends and allies in the back and expect to still pal around with them?
posted by ljromanoff at 1:27 PM on June 27, 2001


Why is this at all surprising? You stab a bunch of your friends and allies in the back and expect to still pal around with them?

We're not talking about normal people. These are politicians.
posted by rdr at 1:32 PM on June 27, 2001


to betray your friends ... carries consequences

True. At the same time, these people were his friends, right? If he really believes he shouldn't be a part of the Republican party, why aren't they supporting his decision? Isn't it more of a betrayal to refuse to support your friends regardless of their decisions than to follow your heart even under immense pressure to maintain the status quo? Real friends would have supported Jeffords. If party affiliation is all Lott and the Singing Senators care about, they weren't really friends to begin with.
posted by daveadams at 1:32 PM on June 27, 2001


It just kinda makes me sad to realize that even the higher levels of government are populated with people who are really no more mature or evolved in their interpersonal relationships than your average group of seventh graders. Suprised? Unfortunately, no. But sad, yes.
posted by spilon at 1:36 PM on June 27, 2001


I wonder if that Bernie Sanders is the same guy who ran for Congress in St Lawrence County in New York. That would have been in either 1982 or 84. I don't remember because I was little then. If it is, then I don't like him because he poo-pood my bumper sticker design (made on an Etch-a-sketch, if I remember correctly.)
posted by rschram at 1:39 PM on June 27, 2001


have you ever been to Vermont?

Nope. I hear it's very nice, though.

Ever hear of Bernie Sanders?

Nope. Checked the link, he's an indy rep. Not sure I follow the connection.

Jeffords will NOT face re-election defeat.

Maybe you're right. But you can bet that Republicans will wage all out war in Vermont next Senate election. There has got to be a Republican candidate worth fielding and a base of voters (Jeffords did win as a Republican). Worse comes to worse, they'll simply carpetbag someone in there like Hillary did New York. But they will be out to get him like hornets on a picnicker, no doubt in my mind.

no more mature or evolved in their interpersonal relationships than your average group of seventh graders.

Maybe. We ALL are like this about some stuff though. Politics is what these guys care the most about, and he stuck them but good. This is the rough Beltway equivalent of your friend screwing your wife AND ruining your promotion at work - think about how mature you'd be about it.
posted by UncleFes at 1:42 PM on June 27, 2001


If he had a real wife and son, they would not be angry either.
posted by thirteen at 1:55 PM on June 27, 2001


Maybe this is Fred Tuttle's second chance!
posted by briank at 1:58 PM on June 27, 2001


Twenty bucks says this guy runs for President in 2004. Twenty more says he wins. That book deal he signed this week is no coincidence, and as of right now, the guys got more populist cred than John McCain had even during the halcyon days of CNN Presents: The Grumpy Bastard Express.

Who knows? If the guy hires a decent ghostwriter, he could come out of this situation looking like the Most Consecrated and Holy Son of Jimmy Stewart and Jed Bartlett's Blessed Union, Hallelujah. Regardless, he'll be a Dem darling for at least the next couple of years. After that, if things go south, well, he'll be about sixty-five. He can always retire.

I think this dude is super crafty, and maybe even principled to boot. I can't wait to see how this whole thing plays out.
posted by Optamystic at 2:05 PM on June 27, 2001


This guy is going to have to run for election again, and he is going to have to face a well-funded, well-motivated Republican with plenty (plenty!) of party support - the Republicans are going to want to crucify him. And personally, I think they'll succeed - he's toast come next election.

You're dreaming, UncleFes. Jeffords' popularity in Vermont went up as a result of his switch: In a poll of registered voters conducted afterward, 67 percent approved and only 27 percent disapproved (source). There aren't enough conservative Republicans in the state to give him cause for concern.
posted by rcade at 2:05 PM on June 27, 2001


to betray your friends ... carries consequences

Oh my God, what is this, a Scorsese movie? Joe Pesci as Trent Lott, DeNiro as Jeffords and Christopher Walken as Ashcroft?
posted by matteo at 2:08 PM on June 27, 2001


Rschram: no, it wasn't Bernie. He was mayor of Burlington then.

Why is this at all surprising? You stab a bunch of your friends and allies in the back and expect to still pal around with them? **Jenn tastes LJR. Declares him to be bitter.**
posted by jennak at 2:08 PM on June 27, 2001


Sanders is the one that is "almost a communist," right?
posted by gyc at 2:11 PM on June 27, 2001


If he had a real wife and son, they would not be angry either.

Does your wife agree with everything you do? And is it impossible to conceive that his wife and son might have political beliefs they believe in as strongly as those that prompted Jeffords to defect?

There aren't enough conservative Republicans in the state to give him cause for concern.

Maybe not. But the Benedict Arnold card can be a doozy. He might be riding high in the polls with all the glowing press he's getting now, but in a couple years, who knows? The press will forget about him - he's not flashy enough to hold their interest for much longer, and he's not powerful enough to hold their interest despite lack of personality - but the Republicans won't.

to betray your friends ... carries consequences...Jenn tastes LJR. Declares him to be bitter.

Hey, you guys can laugh, but it does carry consequences. It's simple human nature - people get mad when you screw them over. You can't screw over 40+ of the most powerful people in the country and still get asspats in the cloakroom.
posted by UncleFes at 2:14 PM on June 27, 2001


>Sanders is the one that is "almost a communist," right?
yes and god bless him for it...

I'm am so sick of the party loyalty crap. Only in America would we toy with a third party, not because of ideology, but because we have a group of politicians that are willing to speak their mind and follow their convictions rather then the herd. Keep turning McCain and Jeffords into monsters. They are eating it up.
posted by machaus at 2:19 PM on June 27, 2001


**Jenn tastes LJR. Declares him to be bitter.**

Jenna, all this flirting via Metafilter must stop! I'm blushing.
posted by ljromanoff at 2:21 PM on June 27, 2001


Jenna, all this flirting via Metafilter must stop! I'm blushing.

When are you two crazy kids just going to admit that it's inevitable??
posted by UncleFes at 2:26 PM on June 27, 2001


to betray your friends


Oh like this was a surprise. Its pretty obvious he wasn't exactly Ronald Raygun and the Republicans knew his voting record and his views.

He probably will run for President and if he's up against Gore and Bush he might win a few states. I'm sure the only thing that will be talked about at the first book signing is if he's going to join or create a party before his presidential run.
posted by skallas at 2:34 PM on June 27, 2001


the Republicans knew his voting record and his views.
Not the point. They take this personally. I'm not sure I blame them. He certainly could have timed his "crisis of conscience" a lot better, if only for the benefit of his friends and colleagues.

He probably will run for President

Are you kidding me? This guy doesn't have the personality that god gave Al Gore. He makes Nader look like a spazz. Issues are important, but people get elected president on personality. Always have, always will.

I could remotely envision a McCain-Jeffords ticket, but Jeffords would be tagging along, and I think McCain has someone else in mind. I mean, until all this happened, no one outside of Vermont had ever heard of this guy. By '04, people will be saying "Jim who? Oh yeah, I vaguely remember him..."
posted by UncleFes at 2:52 PM on June 27, 2001


If he really believes he shouldn't be a part of the Republican party, why aren't they supporting his decision?

Because his reasons were as bogus as a $3. He endorsed George W. Bush then six months later started whining about not being able to stay in a party with him as the (nominal) leader. He knew the course that the party was planning, but waited until it was politically expedient for himself and no one himself to do anything to express his "disapproval." This switch wasn't about ideals, it was about power games and name fame. Just as well to have him out of the party but he shouldn't be surprised when the results of following his crass motives are anything but positive.
posted by Dreama at 2:57 PM on June 27, 2001


This wasn't just a matter of personal or political betrayal; this guy fucked with their jobs. The majority party gets more stuff than the minority party, and the majority leader in particular gets more stuff than the minority leader. This means a lot of GOP senators had to move into smaller offices in the Capitol, Lott at least probably had to fire some of his staff members (reduced budget), lots of stuff like that. I certainly don't know if I could remain friends with someone whose intentional actions forced me to have to fire loyal employees against my will, especially given the extremely strong evidence that this was done more for reasons of a personal vendetta than honest political beliefs: What Ari said is absolutely correct. Jeffords went with the flow just fine though periods when the GOP was quite a bit more right-wing than it is now, so the only logical explanations for his actions are either vendetta or expediency.
posted by aaron at 3:14 PM on June 27, 2001


Well, he pissed off Jesse Helms, so he must be doing something right.
posted by Optamystic at 3:16 PM on June 27, 2001


Hi, I live in Vermont. Jeffords will get re-elected and he will be hard-pressed to not have someone create some title like Supreme Potentate and elect him to that too.

Republicans are pissed, and with good reason, BUT out here in the state with the smallest state capitol, people understand the difference between loyalty and integrity. Jeffords was bad on the loyalty tip, but showed lots and lots of integrity to his personal [and consituents'] beliefs. Jeffords can handle the strain and the state response, over all, has been to respect his choice, even if it sucks for them personally. The last time I went to a BBQ, my friend asked me "have you written Jeffords to thank him yet?" and I think that's how a lot of the lefties and centrists feel.

And Dreama, I'm sorry to disagree with you, but Bush really pulled some nasty shit after getting elected that suprised even some of the most loyal Republicans. You may not agree with Jefford's decision, but I don't think you could call him whiny.
posted by jessamyn at 3:22 PM on June 27, 2001


I call 'em as I see 'em.
posted by Dreama at 3:25 PM on June 27, 2001


Is there any reason we should believe 'em, though? You know what they say about opinions.
posted by rodii at 3:42 PM on June 27, 2001


I saw Alan Keyes on FNC a few days ago, and he brings up a good point: Bush is actually implementing what was stated in the Republican platform, and Jeffords is surprised that Bush is actually implementing what he promised to do and campaigned on! Imagine that. A politician doing what he says he going to do.
posted by gyc at 3:45 PM on June 27, 2001


to betray your friends ... carries consequences

a true friend would respect the personal political conflict, and while a friend might disagree with his ultimate decision, a friend would remain a friend.

it's not valid to project the emotions and logic of the majority of people on politicians - they aren't like the rest of us. in the political world, a friend is someone who agrees with you or can do a favor. i can't think of anything less valuable than the friendship of a politician - as a group, the most singleminded, self-centered, power-seeking, and above all - untrustworthy and dishonest human beings on the planet. over 200 years and we still haven't learned.
posted by quonsar at 3:53 PM on June 27, 2001


The majority party gets more stuff than the minority party, and the majority leader in particular gets more stuff than the minority leader. This means a lot of GOP senators had to move into smaller offices in the Capitol, Lott at least probably had to fire some of his staff members (reduced budget), lots of stuff like that

Wow, sounds like something needs to be changed. I hope being a senator is not about the size of your office, the size of your staff, or how much "stuff" you get... And if it is, they need to give everyone the same size office, the same size staff, and the same amount of "stuff" and let them deal with it.
posted by daveadams at 4:14 PM on June 27, 2001


Wow quonsar, that really sums it up. I'm glad someone noticed the difference between a friend and a poltical friend/party memeber/ally.
posted by skallas at 4:23 PM on June 27, 2001


This wasn't just a matter of personal or political betrayal; this guy fucked with their jobs. The majority party gets more stuff than the minority party, and the majority leader in particular gets more stuff than the minority leader.

Since when did being an elected representative, or working for an elected representative, give you the presumption of job security? Sure, many Congressional districts are little more than rotten boroughs, and many Congresspeople have no particular desire to dirty their hands with constituency duties; but it was precisely the arrogance and complacency of the Senate Republican leadership towards Jeffords which sent him running. Trent Lott had his nice big office and Dicky Ticker Dick's casting vote, and assumed that nothing could go wrong. D'oh. People in college debating societies have a better grasp of the need to keep their allies happy. And the anger in the Republican caucus has more to do with an acute embarrassment at making such a lapse of collective judgement.

If you can't cope with volatility, don't get into politics. Or become a civil servant.

And Vermont is lovely. I want to go back.
posted by holgate at 5:15 PM on June 27, 2001


Everybody is talking about whether the Republicans will be able to defeat him in 2006. I'm sure they'll try, but won't the Democrats be trying to do the same thing?

He didn't join there party and, though they are happy with it now, they are going to want a Democrat holding that position if possible.

I'm not saying Jeffords wouldn't win anyway, but it will be a two-front war. Jeffords won his position with strong Republican support and some crossover support from Democrats. Is a strongly Democratic voter going to suddenly stop voting Democrat just because they respect this guy? He still holds mostly Republican positions. Are strongly Republican voters going to vote for him? I doubt it. That leaves a certain percentage in the middle being asked to put respect over party.

I just don't see that adding up to 50% of the voters. I could be wrong, and if the vote were held tomorrow probably would be wrong. But he has six years of both sides working against him before his next election.
posted by obfusciatrist at 5:38 PM on June 27, 2001


I really wouldn't be surprised if in addition to the chairmanship of a commitee, the Democrats also promised not to run a serious opponent or mount a serious challenge to him in the next election.
posted by gyc at 5:50 PM on June 27, 2001


Imagine that. A politician doing what he says he going to do.

gyc, Didn't Bush say something during the campaign about legislating a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions? Seems like this might be an important issue for Vermonters.
posted by donkeymon at 6:40 PM on June 27, 2001


On the one hand, you can understand why Republicans are pissed at this guy. On the other, that's precisely what I've disliked about the tone of the Republican party leadership: politics is more of a holy war (second time today I've used that phrase today) to them, rather than the compromise of opposing viewpoints necessary in a free and diverse society. The comparisons to mafia mentality is eerily similar, and the treatment of Jeffords seems less about losing offices or political leverage than it is about Jeffords daring to cross the Cult of Modern Conservatism, about defying the Holy Mission to be part of God's Republican Crusade...
posted by hincandenza at 7:12 PM on June 27, 2001


2006 Is a LONG time away.....an elephant never forgets, but this elephant will have gone through an awful lot before they get a shot at Jeffords.

Besides, who's gonna vote Republican in Vermont. Ben and Jerry? A socialist congressman? A governor who advocates a Candadian style health system. come on.
posted by brucec at 7:57 PM on June 27, 2001


Everybody is talking about whether the Republicans will be able to defeat him in 2006. I'm sure they'll try, but won't the Democrats be trying to do the same thing?

Its a fair question, normally party switchers do suffer from the problem of having no one who loves them, but my understanding is that by striking such a big blow against Bush , Jeffords is a hero among Democrats.
posted by brucec at 7:59 PM on June 27, 2001


</b>

Don't mind me, just sweeping up . . .
posted by BoyWithFez at 8:12 PM on June 27, 2001


politics is more of a holy war to them

Ah, c'mon - it's a holy war to the Democratic side two - possibly even more so with good reason. "Bleeding hearts" aren't exactly stoic automatons.

Myself completely included.
posted by owillis at 8:34 PM on June 27, 2001


but my understanding is that by striking such a big blow against Bush , Jeffords is a hero among Democrats.

It is impossible for him to be so much of a hero to them that they wouldn't toss him to the sharks tomorrow, if that's what was needed for them to maintain or add to their razor-thin majority. If it comes down to it in 2006, they'll give him about five minutes to either end the charade and sign on for real, or else have a bullseye painted on his back. (Any promise they may have made, as gyc hypothesized, won't mean a thing.) Perhaps the angry Democrat-on-the-street is worshipping this guy, but to the Democratic leadership in Congress, he's merely a useful idiot.

I hope being a senator is not about the size of your office, the size of your staff, or how much "stuff" you get...

I'm doubt it's the main reason most of them are there. But it does count. Say you went into partnership with some guy, started a business. It gets pretty successful, but then one morning your partner walks in the door, announces he's decided he'd rather join up with the guy across the street, and leaves, taking half the assets of your business with him. You're forced to drastically downsize, you lose a lot of your clients, you have to move into smaller digs and fire some of the employees that have worked so hard for you, etc. After all that, would you still want to hang out with this person?

And if it is, they need to give everyone the same size office, the same size staff, and the same amount of "stuff" and let them deal with it.

This is impossible. To give everyone the same size office, they'd have to tear down the Capitol and rebuild it from scratch; the internal layout of the place is insane. And it's just a fact that some Senators need more employees than others; depending on where they are in the hierarchy, what committee assignments they have, etc, some have a lot more work than others. A senator from California, for example, has to deal with ~70 to 75 TIMES as many constituents as a senator from Wyoming.

Since when did being an elected representative, or working for an elected representative, give you the presumption of job security?

Well geez, holgate, you're one of the last people I'd expect to have to point out the blatantly obivous to here, but senators are elected for six-year terms. The Founding Fathers decided they should have such lengthy terms precisely so they would have some job security and not have to always feel the breath of the angry mob of voters on the back of their necks like members of the House do. (And "Dicky Ticker Dick"? Are you sure you're feeling all right? That's beneath you.) Anyway, the fact remains that never before has a senator made a party switch that altered the balance of power. It's not the way the Senate is designed to operate, so the Senate GOP Leadership has every right to be pissed off about it. (The GOP in general doesn't mind that much, since the reality is that in the Senate, being the majority party largely is more about perks than power. What matters is the number of votes, so a switch of 1 isn't that big of a deal, other than the slimyness of it all.)

As for the "holy war" thing, that's happening on both sides of the isle in large numbers. Washington in general has been getting nastier and nastier over the last 15 years or so, starting at the point when Reaganism started actually cutting into the Democratic stranglehold on Congress. They'd pretty much owned the joint for decades, and they didn't like it one bit when they started losing. Once Tip O'Neill quit, that was the beginning of the end for civility, and it's been eye-for-an-eye ever since. "You screw me, I'll screw you back, oh yeah well then I'll screw you a third time!..." ad infinitum.
posted by aaron at 9:40 PM on June 27, 2001



No, aaron, the lack of civility in Congress can actually be traced back more to the mid to late 1960s. That's when young and insurgent pols started feeling that the parties needed to be more ideologically cohesive. Then you have the rise of candidate-centered campaigns (who cares about being civil when there is TV attention to get) and the decline off parties at the grass-roots level. Partisanship, as opposed to comity, actually reached an apex in the mid-1980s, according to most studies, impeachment or no. I still don't think that a major Congressional Holy War has commenced in the wake of 2000 yet, although the potential is there. Lots of rank-and-file Dems., for instance, who were upset by the Supreme Court ruling (their Republican counterparts cared more before) still complain that their side hasn't gotten the good word about righteous rank-and-file anger yet.
posted by raysmj at 11:01 PM on June 27, 2001


The Founding Fathers decided they should have such lengthy terms precisely so they would have some job security and not have to always feel the breath of the angry mob of voters on the back of their necks like members of the House do.

But as you yourself pointed out in response to my comment on Zell Miller's voting record, the Senate is organised on a much looser party basis, with less curtailment of debate and much less "whipping" (the UK term, dunno the US equiv) than the House. That six year term gives Senators security from the electorate, but it also protects them from the arm-twisting of party bosses: they have the power to assemble themselves however they see fit. You may be secure as a Senator, but that's no reason to presume an eternal continuation of your privileges within the Senate. (Remember Margaret Thatcher in 1990? Comfortable Commons majority, kicked out by her own ministers.)

It's not the way the Senate is designed to operate...

Um, I don't see anything in the design brief that says anything about majority parties or control of the legislative timetable. In fact, there's (deliberately) no consitutional reference to political parties at all. You can say that it's the way the Senate currently works, after decades of two-party division, but that shouldn't be an obstacle for a fleeting remembrance of the original constitutional principles, which were designed to escape the bipolar politics of Whig and Tory.

You may not appreciate the effects of what Jeffords did, but you have to admit that the complacency of the GOP leadership was frankly staggering, in assuming they could manage the Senate as if it were the House, and rely on Cheney's casting vote for contentious or organisational matters. (I'm fine, by the way; are you feeling better after name-calling John McCain?)

raysmj: not really being au fait with the history of American poltics, I found this long piece in The Nation on Barry Goldwater to be fascinating: the kind of foundational rubble for the ideological shift you're talking about in the Johnson ere.
posted by holgate at 5:48 AM on June 28, 2001


If it comes down to it in 2006, they'll give him about five minutes to either end the charade and sign on for real, or else have a bullseye painted on his back.

The Democrats in Vermont have always supported Bernie Sanders without requiring him to officially join the party. Why would they treat Jim Jeffords any differently, considering what he did for them this year?

The fantasy that Jeffords is going to pay a price for his defection goes against 40 years of former Democratic Senate defectors who have continued to win office -- Phil Gramm, Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Richard Shelby and Strom Thurmond never paid a price for disrespecting the donkey.

In fact, I'm having trouble finding any U.S. senator who ever lost an election after a party switch. Here's a list of turncoats, if someone would like to find an example that lives up to the dire predictions made in this thread.

I think the notion of payback for Jeezum Jim is strictly wishful thinking among bitter right-wingers. I understand how they feel -- I'm still waiting for the day I can watch a Phil Gramm concession speech.
posted by rcade at 7:14 AM on June 28, 2001


Yes, what you said raysmj. And it seems holgate has already seconded that. Thanks Goldwater!

"when the GOP was quite a bit more right-wing than it is now"
Have I missed something here?? Even the Republican pundits say that the Bush administration makes Raygun look like a moderate! The GOP has NEVER been more right wing. Historically, the GOP was once the party of comity, civil rights and such. You know, the party of Lincoln, not the party of the Dixiecrats. Oh well, I guess the Nazis, the nuts and the KKK had to find a home somewhere. Sigh.
posted by nofundy at 7:17 AM on June 28, 2001


makes Raygun look like a moderate!

Do those of you on the left really think that misspelling Reagan's name makes some kind of point? Or is it supposed to be funny or something?

Oh well, I guess the Nazis, the nuts and the KKK had to find a home somewhere. Sigh.

Never mind. I guess intelligent commentary is a little beyond your grasp.
posted by ljromanoff at 7:24 AM on June 28, 2001


Lott apparently feels much the same. He is on record accusing Jeffords of staging a "coup of one that subverted the will of American voters who elected a Republican majority."
I didn't think we'd see a Republican talking like that before '04.
posted by Eamon at 8:09 AM on June 28, 2001


Am I the only one who doesn't necessarily trust the very conservative Washington Post to report truthfully on the outcome of Jeffords decision? This is the only piece I have seen claiming that Jeffords is having a horrible time with the switch. I'm sure that the Republicans are pissed - and nobody holds a grudge like the GOP - but all the (previous) public statements by Jeffords family, friends, and even most of his old Republican friends have been fairly supportive.
posted by edlark at 9:25 AM on June 28, 2001


Am I the only one who doesn't necessarily trust the very conservative Washington Post to report truthfully on the outcome of Jeffords decision?

Well, no offense, but it's quite possible, since I can't recall the last time I saw anyone call the Post "very conservative." Besides...

and nobody holds a grudge like the GOP...

...this shows you're just as biased as you're claiming the Post to be, so which side are we supposed to believe?

The fantasy that Jeffords is going to pay a price for his defection...

I never claimed that Jeffords is unquestionably bound to get what's coming to him. I'd like to see it, I think it's entirely possible (especially given that this is the only party switch that ever shifted the balance of power, meaning this is far less likely to be easily forgiven), but I don't think it's anywhere near inevitable. All I said is that he's going to be despised by half the Senate for the rest of his career, and the other half will think nothing of eating him alive if it proves necessary at some point in the future to obtain or maintain a true majority.
posted by aaron at 9:39 AM on June 28, 2001



Remember Margaret Thatcher in 1990? Comfortable Commons majority, kicked out by her own ministers.

How can I forget? And I think it's important to note that the Conservative Party has been paying for that little minicoup ever since. The fact that it was technically legal doesn't mean it was ethical, and if they'd never done it they'd probably be far better off today, both in terms of power and in terms of the public's opinion of them.

"whipping" (the UK term, dunno the US equiv)

Yes, we have whips too, that operate in roughly similar fashion. They just don't get noticed much by the media, for some reason.)

but that's no reason to presume an eternal continuation of your privileges within the Senate.

Technically (extremely technically), no, but the reality is this has never happened before. The understanding of the Senate, the design of the Senate, is that one party is elected to a majority, and one to a minority, and that's the way it is until the next election two years later. Considering the uniqueness of the 50-50 split, both sides agreed to a power-sharaing structure that reflected the will of the electorate (which is NOT something the GOP had to do, by the way; more technicalities in the Senate rules would have allowed them to be hardasses and remain the full-fledged leaders of the Senate if they'd wanted to do so). Jim Jeffords blatantly threw all that out the window, and allowed one party to fully take over without the public having any say in it. Yes, he's allowed to, but it's absoutely unethical. (The old saying "violating the spirit of the law/rules, if not the letter" comes to mind here.) The Democrats made an agreement, "organizing themselves as they saw fit" as you put it, and then ripped the agreement to shreds.

Um, I don't see anything in the design brief that says anything about majority parties or control of the legislative timetable.

That's not the design brief; it's the initial work order. This is the design brief.

but you have to admit that the complacency of the GOP leadership was frankly staggering.

Oh, I do. I think Trent Lott's reign has been a disaster (as I said, he didn't have to agree to the power-sharing thing, and the Jeffords affair proves unquestionably that he never should have done so, because he set the entire party up to be screwed over by the Dems, as most of us they would do at the first opportunity), and I'd love to see someone else challenge him for the leadership and win.

after decades of two-party division

Centuries, really. The legislative branch pretty much fell into a permanent two-party system by the early 1800s, because that's the system under which that the Constitutional framework naturally works best, whether the Founders originally wanted it that way or not (and I would argue their feelings on the matter weren't that clear-cut, but this is a busy enough argument as it is).

I'm fine, by the way; are you feeling better after name-calling John McCain?

Oh, I was better minutes after I said that, since it was an intentional action to see if my suspicions were correct, which they proved to be: MeFites by the dozens can refer to any conservative by whatever nicknames they wish, ranging from the merely stupid-cutesy to the truly vile, and nobody bats an eye, but if a conservative tries the same thing one single time, that instance will be immediately filed away and be hypocritically brought back up every time a complaint is made about the overwhelming name-calling of the liberal side.
posted by aaron at 11:51 AM on June 28, 2001



The Democrats in Vermont have always supported Bernie Sanders without requiring him to officially join the party. Why would they treat Jim Jeffords any differently, considering what he did for them this year?

Well, Bernie Sanders is more liberal than just about anybody else. Like it or not, the vast majority of votes in Congress have only two sides: the Democrat postion and the Republican position. Bernie Sanders can either abstain or vote Democrat. The party gets his vote without having to pay for his elections, what better deal is there than that?

Add to this that a senator is much more important and that Jeffords is on the conservative side of the party and you lose the comfort. Add to this that there must be at least one powerful Democrat in Vermont that would like to be senator. I'm not saying that the Dems will absolutely run someone against him but the only argument in his favor is "payment" for his move; six years is a long time to wait to collect.

In fact, I'm having trouble finding any U.S. senator who ever lost an election after a party switch. Here's a list of turncoats, if someone would like to find an example that lives up to the dire predictions made in this thread.

The key difference is that just about everybody on that list switched from one party to the other. The new party has every reason to support the convert. In Jeffords case, neither party has much reason to support him.

Again, I'm not saying he won't win, but I don't think he is going to have great support from the Dems in 2006 and obviously will have no support from the Republicans (unless he switches back).
posted by obfusciatrist at 11:59 AM on June 28, 2001


Am I the only one who doesn't necessarily trust the very conservative Washington Post to report truthfully on the outcome of Jeffords decision?

This is the first time I'll agree with aaron (*gasp!*), but the Post *isn't* conservative. I'm a liberal, and I live in DC, so I feel you can trust me on this. Besides the New York Times, it's the best paper in the US.
posted by jennak at 12:21 PM on June 28, 2001


Considering the uniqueness of the 50-50 split, both sides agreed to a power-sharaing structure that reflected the will of the electorate (which is NOT something the GOP had to do, by the way; more technicalities in the Senate rules would have allowed them to be hardasses and remain the full-fledged leaders of the Senate if they'd wanted to do so).

The Republicans had to accept a power-sharing agreement because the Democrats had them over a barrel. The new president had an agenda to enact and he wasn't going to get any of it done with the Senate in total gridlock over an organizational disagreement. The Democrats had nothing to lose -- and a huge amount to gain by stalling Bush's first-100-day plans -- by waiting for Lott to cave in on an acceptable compromise.
posted by rcade at 8:21 PM on June 28, 2001


The Republicans had to accept a power-sharing agreement because the Democrats had them over a barrel. The new president had an agenda to enact and he wasn't going to get any of it done with the Senate in total gridlock over an organizational disagreement. The Democrats had nothing to lose -- and a huge amount to gain by stalling Bush's first-100-day plans -- by waiting for Lott to cave in on an acceptable compromise.

All sadly true. If Lott was more courageous he could have used the same agreement to keep the Democrats out of power until they numbered 51, but we're all well aware of how Lott loves to roll over to his political opponents.
posted by ljromanoff at 8:46 PM on June 28, 2001


Real friends would have supported Jeffords. If party affiliation is all Lott and the Singing Senators care about, they weren't really friends to begin with.

Ask Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell and Senator Richard Shelby and Senator Phil Gramm about the "friends" they left behind ont he other side of the aisle.

the lack of civility in Congress can actually be traced back more to the mid to late 1960s.

No, the lack of civility in Cognress can be traced back to the 1800's (and probably before that) when one Congressman beat a Senator with a stick and a second was shot by a reporter he was assaulting on the South Steps and a third was killed in a duel with an esteemed colleague. (Same link)
posted by mikewas at 3:41 PM on June 29, 2001


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