Jeffords' Defection: Traitorous or Heroic?

I started an MPSIMS thread about this earlier because it wasn’t hard news yet and I was just looking to see what people thought about it. Now things are looking a little more solid.

Jeffords Defects.

In short, since Tuesday night or even earlier, Sen. James M. Jeffords (R-VT) has severed ties with the Republican Party and has become an independent, at least temporarily and theoretically handing the Senate majority over to the Democrats.

So what do you think? Is he a hero for staying true to his ideals and thumbing his nose at a party that he feels fails to represent his views, or is he a traitor for changing his party alignment in mid-season and putting the screws to party-line voters?

I’ll refrain from commenting for now.

Well, keep in mind that Jeffords was elected to the Senate by his constituents because they (or at least a majority of them) felt he best represented their interests and viewpoints. From everything I’ve heard so far on the topic, it seems like Jeffords is “defecting” because he felt ignored by the die-hard conservatives in the GOP.

So, since Jeffords is changing his affiliation to make sure that his views aren’t being ignored – which means he’s doing the job he was appointed to do – I can only see it as a respectable act. “Heroic” might be a tad excessive, but better that than “traitorous,” which IMO doesn’t apply at all.

The Republican party in Vermont did alot for Jeffords. It takes time, dedication, and money to run for Senate as Jeffords did just last fall. It took many people working the phones, knocking on doors and writing checks for him to be where he is today, and he just stabbed every one of them in the back. The only honourable way to switch parties would be to resign the seat and run for it again as an Independent. How has the GOP changed since November? It hasn’t, the only thing that has changed is that this opportunist saw an way to advance himself and he took it.

It bothers me that anybody would consider him to be either hero or traitor.

The truth is like many politicians, he’s a self-aggrandizing, scumbag.

Did you hear his little speech?

He can no longer remain a Republican because the electoral success of his party has alienated him? Apparently beforehand when we didn’t have a Republican President his party would listen to him. Now, all of a sudden, it won’t?

Does anybody out there even pretend to accept this shit at face value?

Clearly, because of the narrowness of the Republican Senatorial lead he could have used the threat of defection as a mighty club to insure that his voice was heard.

It’s a blatant untruth, but I guess if you tell a big enough lie with a straight face and say it loud enough people will start to believe you.

That way he could have remained loyal to the people who after all elected him, and not abandoned his party at what is clearly a critical time, delivering the Senate into the hands of the opposition.

No. No. No.

Don’t tell me you can’t smell the backroom deal.

Our little turncoat Senator wants to be Governor. To do that in Vermont, you need the support of the Democratic party. Just watch. A few years from now the Senator and the Governor are going to trade places.

Jefford’s gets to be Governor, and the Democrats get the Senate. It’s a deal. It’s self-interest.

As usual, the constituents get screwed.

The whole thing itself, while unsavory, isn’t terribly surprising.

What disgusts me is that the American people are so used to getting screwed that they are no longer outraged by this kind of thing.

i think he is a good guy, he is putting the needs of Vermont above the needs of his political party. maybe that will cause some of the washington bosses to stop playing party politics, but since the new rumor is Trent Lott is gonna get ousted as punishment for this, perhaps not.

According to today’s *Washington Post*, it seems that is more a case of the Republicans left Jeffords. After Jeffords voted to scale back Bush’s tax cut, he was snubbed by the White House and not invited to a ceremony honoring a teacher from his home state, which in Beltway etiquette is a big-time insult. Even Representative Christopher Shays (R-CT) and Senator Arlen Spector (R-PA) have said that the vindictive conservative wing of the GOP has silenced or elbowed out of the way moderate Republicans.

I’m with puddleglum. It’s not the voters who were betrayed - few voted based on party affiliation. It’s the volunteers and donors, many of whom believe in the party.

Of note in this regard: Phil Gramm was elected as a Democrat (to the House), and upon turning Republican he resigned his seat and ran again as a Republican, ultimately making it to the Senate. But he is the exception rather than the rule.

Also interesting is the fact that personal slights appear to have played a major role. I seem to recall in the case of Ben Nighthorse Campbell that his defection too was related to some local feud involving Colorado politics as opposed to larger national issues (but I may be wrong).

When Sens. Thurmond, Gramm, Campbell, and Shelby switched to the Republicans, were they simply following their consciences and allying themselves with the party that best reflected their views and those of the people that elected them? I believe so, and I see no reason other than simple timing, and the angry cynicism of the right, not to believe the same of Jeffords.

More detailed stories, including the text of his address (see the Washington Post link above) make it clear that the WH snub, indefensible by any standards, was simply the last straw. It seems clear, to me anyway (YMMV), that this is just the latest step in the historical reversal of the Democrats and Republicans vs. conservativism and liberalism of which the New Deal and the Civil Rights Act have been the defining moments.

Look for more marginalized, spurned Northeastern GOP moderates (both elected officials, and, more to the point, voters) to make the same switch now, just the same way that so many marginalized, spurned conservative Dems have switched to the GOP in recent decades. The Rockefeller wing of the GOP is almost dead now, just as the George Wallace wing of the Democrats is.

Now, who had Jeffords in the pool? Anyone? I had Thurmond first (well, feet-first actually), then Miller and Helms. Jeffords wasn’t even on my list of prospects.

From darkness into light, he hath tread.

You know, they say when a Republican repents, another angel gets his wings! Well, maybe not “they”. Maybe just me.

And now, for the happy spectacle of Trent Lott kissing Daschle-butt! Doing the bi-partisan pucker!

I’m going right out and buy some Ben and Jerry’s ice cream! Can’t wait for Shield/Gigot’s take on this tomorrow night.

Good thing I’m so non-partisan. Otherwise might be tempted to gloat.

Hey, Scylla, want to come over for a bowl of granola, maybe hug a couple of trees?

Well, while I’m sure the Teacher of the Year snub had an effect, that’s not the sole reason he switched. Jeffords has been out of step with the national party for a while, and he tended to vote with the Democrats. The thing, I think, that really pushed him over was the rumor that, to punish him for his lack of support for the Tax plan, the Bush administration would try to abolish the Northeast Dairy Compact. For those of you who don’t know, the Compact is a council, established by the national government, that regulates the price of New England dairy products. It’s pretty important to the New England dairy farmers, because they’re afraid that without it, they’ll be put out of business by Mid-western dairy farmers able to produce and sell milk for less. That threat was a big reason he switched, I think.

I have to disagree with puddleglum & Scylla

I believe that most volunteers (having been one myself)and supporters generally work because they believe in the Candidates stand, not the party stand (though I know this is more important to some). According to media reports, Jeffers, consistently voted with Democrats on issues that are contrary to some of the conservative agenda now being pushed by Bush. Most notably he’s pro-abortion and pro public education.

I’d be interested in seeing how his own constituency views it, before saying he stabbed his constituents in the back.

Good thing I’m one of those more diplomatic posters or I’d be wondering how much of this outrage was pure partisanship.

Jeffords is clearly a great American, and a Hero. Why, I get all teary-eyed when I think of his bravery and undying commitment to his strong personal values in the face of overwhelming adversity.

Must really suck to be a die-hard Republican right about now - y’know, what with them losing power over the Senate and all, and so abruptly too. It’s very much as if they were sleeping, literally sleeping! Then, to wake up with a start and “Who, wha? The Senate, gone? But - but - we received almost half the vote last time!” :slight_smile:

I guess that’s why, when I tuned in today to a certain big fat idiot’s radio show to shamelessly gloat at the “dittoheads”, he sounded as completely demoralized and wounded as if his wife just told him she’s been enthusiastically banging his brother for the last 17 years.

The humiliation and embarassment Republican leaders feel must be tremendous. And such a public, public stage for it, too! And after prostrating themselves before Jeffords so, begging him with fear in their eyes not to go, offering him a king’s ransom of power and influence, doing it all before the eyes of the world - and then to have Jeffords say, “Thanks for the offer, but we all know you’d never be offering if I wasn’t leaving. The GOP sucks. Later” … Wow, what a guy, what a man among men.

There are actually parallels between the story of Jeffords and the story of Jesus. Jesus, as you remember, was offered dominion over the world by Satan, but declined in favor of the greater good of all mankind … And just as Jesus went on to get himself detained (IIRC, he “fit the profile”), arrested, and killed, Jeffords, too, can certainly expect a lot of torment and spiteful recrimination from Republicans who will now seek to inflict political death upon him. Whoever runs against him next time will be made a wealthy, wealthy candidate overnight.

I’m trying to decide what my favorite part about all this is. As of this writing, I think it has to be the fact that the Judiciary Committee is now run by Democrats; that’s a very good thing to be sure. Or maybe it’s just how foolish and impotent W, Lott, Dickarmey, et al. seem today. Ah, the unmitigated, unbridled glee … (well, first relief - THEN unmitigated, unbridled glee.) These are special times, friends, and we should savor them.

I guess it’s not so likely that Jeffords will be getting that Congressional Medal of Freedom he so richly deserves, eh? Yet maybe at some time in the future, Jeffords’ heroic act of selfless bravery can be so honored … It took a VERY long time for Rosa Parks to get hers, as I recall.

I find it interesting to see how many people vote for the party and not the individual. This is America and it’s your right to vote for the person with the best shoes if that’s your thing but personally I think a vote for the individual is the way to go and the reason I remain independent.

So…if someone voted for Jeffords because it was a vote for republicans then I’d say they just got the shaft.

If someone voted for Jeffords because they liked him and the policies he espoused then I’d say all is well. He’s still the same guy and presumably retains the same attitudes. This may also bode better for the people from Vermont as Jeffords now is in a position of a swing voter. Being a guy who is as likely to vote for a republican agenda as a democrat agenda he is in a good position to extract concessions for his state in return for his vote. That’s good for Vermont and since that’s who he’s supposed to serve I see no issues of his being a turncoat.

Frankly I think it’s great. IMO the republicans seemed too cocky of late. In other threads around here people have mentioned that government is a game of compromise. The republicans since Bush took office have seemed disinclined to horse trade. Bush rejected the Kyoto treaty on climate change, the treaty to set up a world criminal court, the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, the effort to make cheap AIDS drugs available in poor countries, a convention on disappearances, and so on. Regardless of your opinion on the merits or lack of merits of these issues the Bush administration has simply walked right through them. No bi-partisan talks, no multi-lateralism with other countries…nothing. He just did them. That may be his prerogative but he shouldn’t be surprised that he leaves bad feelings behind. Sooner or later such behavior was bound to bite him in the ass and it just did.

I regret Jeffords’s decision, but he has a right to change his affiliation. It’s part of the game.

Goboy wrote,

This has been widely reported, but it’s probably not true, because

  1. Jeffords never said this or confired it.

  2. It wasn’t a snub. According to Ari Fleischer, Bush has had many ceremonies with noted citizens to which the state’s senators weren’t invited.

  3. The story makes Jeffords a horse’s ass. It implies that he was moved by pique, rather than principle. (However, it also reflects badly on Bush, which may be why liberals like the story.)

I just want to say that I really, really like John McCain:

Let’s hope it wasn’t the Teacher of The Year Snub that led to this. What an excuse for a (relatively) momentous act.

Maybe the monogram on his Senate coffee mug was smudged, and the offense was too great to bear.

Taking it at face value (and I don’t know about his plans to be Governor) he’s perfectly entitled to go with the party he feels most comfortable with. I am pleased that Congress is now split - slightly less chance for monkey business by our esteemed legislators, since they’ll be too busy infighting to pay full attention to screwing the electorate.

Interesting that the play this is getting in the major media centers around Jeffords’ soul-stirring battle of conscience. If the GOPs persuade Zell Miller to switch to their side, do you think it’ll be billed as a crisis of conscience?

Isn’t it bad form to start a great debate without stating your own opinion? Its one thing to be unsure but if you’re going to start something then at least give is your two cents.

A few years back there were several Democrats that jumped ship and became Republicans. Of course the Democratic party considered them turncoats who attempted to take advantage of the popularity of the Republicans. I gave them the benefit of the doubt and say that they jumped ship based on ideals and not voters.

I’m going to give this guy the same benefit. His ideology no longer matches that of the Republican party so he’s severed ties. I don’t consider that being a traitor. If he had paid Republicans lip service while doing something else then I think there would be a case for traitorous behavior.


Although I’m sympathetic to the violation of trust described by IzzyR and others, I have to conclude that in this instance, the GOP has brought this crisis upon themselves.

Jeffords has always been a moderate. He’s voted pro-choice, pro-environment, pro-education, and so on, in opposition to his party’s platform. He voted to acquit Clinton. He’s also been a fierce defender of his state’s interests, in particular the dairy industry. His stances shouldn’t surprise anybody who’s been paying attention.

Yet, ever since the election, Jeffords has been browbeaten by his party leadership to “toe the line.” It’s more than the payback-spirited snub over the teacher-award presentation; Trent Lott also obstructed his ability to review and approve amendments to an elementary and secondary education bill, an authority Jeffords should have as chair of the relevant committee, and there are reports that GOP leaders were threatening to punish him by attacking the dairy regulations he has worked so hard to defend. If the party insists on moving to the right, it should come as no surprise when a few people dig in their heels and find themselves sprung loose from the bandwagon.

USA Today, in an editorial on the issue, says this: “§olitical parties win and hold the majority not by imposing ideological rigidity but by tolerating the reality that what gets colleagues elected under the party label in one state or region isn’t the same as it is in others.” And it’s even more telling that another Republican maverick has been vociferous in his support of Jeffords’s switch. From his written statement: “Tolerance of dissent is the hallmark of a mature party, and it is well past time for the Republican Party to grow up.” That quote isn’t from Michael Kinsley or one of his ilk, it’s from John freakin’ McCain. That, in my mind, counts for a lot.

In the last election, Bush won the White House by the narrowest of margins. The GOP lost seats in the House. And the Senate, of course, ended up evenly divided. So what on earth were they thinking? Alienating their moderates turned out to be more than foolish; clearly, it’s suicidal.

As far as what Vermonters think, it’s really too early to tell; the next few days of coverage will clarify the picture. The first interviews coming out of the state suggest that the only people who are pissed are the party regulars, the people in the machinery, while the regular voters actually respect the guy, but this may change over the next few days. However, it’s worth mentioning that Bush pulled only 40% of the vote in the last election, while Jeffords was re-elected with 65%.

Speaking as a liberal, I’m overjoyed that Bush will lose the chance to railroad through his anti-abortion extremist judges, and speaking as a cynic with a dark sense of humor, it’s kind of fun to see the Beltway hornet’s nest get shaken up so badly. It’s unfortunate the local GOP volunteers feel betrayed, but in my opinion, they should be blaming the rigid GOP ideologues in D.C., not Jeffords.

:dancing a jig:

This is sweet on so many levels I don’t know where to begin…but I don’t have time, so I’ll just say what I like best about it: the smack in the face to Bush and his mind-numbing arrogance. Beautiful. He thinks he can call himself a “yooniter not a deeevider” and then, having stolen the office, morph into the most alarmingly right-wing prick to show up on the national stage in the last half-century? And spit in the face of anyone who doesn’t agree with him, from entire nations, (and groups representing multiple nations, ahem) down to his own party’s Senators…and get away with it?

Guess again, bubelah.

And right on to John McCain, who said pretty much what I’ve just said here, only more diplomatically.

This is ** SWEET ** !!


PS: Anyone watch Nightline last night? It was particularly rewarding hearing about how nearly hysterical the Republicans were about this, first begging, then pleading, then enticing, then finally threatening. All for naught. GOD I love this! It almost makes up for the fact that that little twerp sits in the White House. The humiliation! The swift and sure loss of power! Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee…

Stoid, your eloquence is exceeded only by your enthusiasm. But, boy, are you going to hear about it!

“And they have drunk sour wine
There is great weeping
And gnashing of teeth”

This just in: the Republican Senators have canvassed thier membership, looking for organ donors to keep Ol’ Strom going. They have enough now to replace very vital organ in Sen. Thurmonds mortal coil. Almost.

Still loooking for a heart.

PS: Who’s for a Bake Sale to raise money to buy a new server for SDMB? Stoid will bring the movies.