SURVEY SAYS: Changing Sides

May 31, 2001 - In the wake of Senator Jeffords' decision yesterday we asked if you thought that YOUR senator should have the right to change political affiliations in accordance with his/her conscience, or should those decisions wait for an election?

The response was enthusiastic in volume and tone, but a strong 76% said that if an elected official wanted to change his/her “stripes,” they should do it as part of an election. “False advertising” was an oft-used phrase of these respondents, as was “of the people, by the people” and “bait and switch.” Many noted that, since the choice of party affiliation had no impact on the exercise of their vote, conscience shouldn’t be negatively influenced. Others cited the fact that that same conscience would surely lead the party changer to return election funds from the party departed.

On the other hand, the remaining 24% were just as committed to the notion of electing a person, not a party –and supportive of the need to preserve the same freedom of “association” that we all enjoy, irrespective of the artificial environment created by the current “balance”, or lack thereof.

Verbatims from the readership:

“All elected officials should remain in their affiliated party until they are running for re-election, at which time they should be free to choose. After all, considerable sums are donated to have people elected that are raised and distributed by the political parties, and changing one’s party in mid term is akin to stealing. ( I am a Vermonter and I am not happy.)”

“If the candidate chosen by the people feels the need to belong to a party in the first place, and (s)he chooses to change party affiliation later, I have no qualms about that. The job results are important. Party affiliation is not.”

“I think my Senator should have the ability to change his or her political affiliations – once they have paid back all of the money that was contributed to their last election campaign, since their conscience should also prevent them from taking political contributions from the supporters of the party they have just abandoned.”

“Our representatives are citizens too, with the right to change party affiliations at any time. I support the decision made by Jeffords.”

“I would hope that a Senator’s conscience would point out that they told the voters they were of a certain party when they asked for their vote, and that their conscience would tell them that they should resign and run again in their new party if their conscience told them they had to switch parties.”

“Ideally, political parties should not come into play when identifying people to lead our nation. It may be that as people we need labels in order to identify someone as opposed to making the true determination as to how well suited they are to lead and do what is right for the country as opposed to what is right for an ideology.”

“This is another reminder that we have a great system. It works.”

“If more politicians voted their conscience we’d all be better off. There’s nothing magic about a party name.”

“I vote for a person in a general election and therefore wouldn’t mind if the elected official changes party affiliation while retaining the same political and moral views as he/she did entering office.”

And finally, our “favorite”: “I wish both my senators would change their party, since I didn’t vote for either one of them!”

Thanks to everyone who participated in our survey!