Emory University prof. speculates Childers next Dem. defector

“This has to be a calculation that it’s going to be easier for a congressman to have a career as a Republican than a Democrat, even if it means joining the minority party, [and] that really is quite astonishing,” says Merle Black, a political science professor at Emory University in Atlanta and author of “Divided America: The Ferocious Power Struggle in American Politics.” “The result is you might see more changes or challenges within the Deep South from some of these districts where Democrats think it’s easier to win election as a Republican.”

Freshman Rep. Bobby Bright (D) of Alabama and Rep. Travis Childers (D) of Mississippi, who took office last year, are other possible party defectors, Professor Black says. They have voting records similar to Griffith’s, represent similarly conservative districts, and are likely to encounter similar sentiments from voters.

According to MSNBC’s “First Read,” a political blog, Democrats are hardly surprised by Griffith’s move, given his voting record and given that he had once asked people to not call him a Democrat, but simply a “Blue Dog.”

Yet Democrats argue that Griffith’s switch pales in comparison with Sen. Arlen Specter’s defection from the Republican Party, which helped give the Democratic caucus its current 60-vote supermajority.

For tradition-bound Southerners, change may simply be happening too fast in Washington. But it’s also possible that Griffith’s frustrations with the direction of the Democratic Party are shared beyond Dixie, Black says.

“The Democrats have gone too far, gone way too liberal, changing one-sixth of the whole economy [with proposed healthcare reform],” says Black. “This is really big social change.”

Christian Science Monitor
12/22/9