Congressman Parker Griffith’s decision to switch parties set off political tremors that could be felt in Washington, D.C., as well as Huntsville, Alabama.
The big question now is whether the trembling ground beneath the Democratic majority is a momentary consequence of the health care debate — or the first sign of an impending earthquake that will change the nation’s political landscape.
Rep. Griffith, a first-term Democrat from Huntsville, had parted ways with the House Democratic leadership on several key issues, including health care. But few political analysts expected him to bolt from the majority party — Democrats hold a big advantage in the House — and join the Republican minority.
As a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group made up of moderate House Democrats, Rep. Griffith seemed to occupy solid political ground between more conservative Republicans and liberal House leaders.
Blue Dogs caught in the middle include two Mississippi Democrats, Rep. Gene Taylor of Bay St. Louis and Rep. Travis Childers of Booneville. With Rep. Griffith’s defection, one Blue Dog — Rep. Bobby Bright — remains in the Alabama House delegation. Rep. Artur Davis, a contender in the governor’s race, doesn’t belong to the coalition, but he has been increasingly at odds with President Obama’s agenda.