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Author Topic: Why the Zell Miller transformation?  (Read 7617 times)
hcallega
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« Reply #25 on: May 01, 2012, 06:48:29 pm »
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Miller's record in the Senate was considerably more conservative than his fellow Southern Democrats. While much of this debate has been subjective, there are some fairly objective numbers that can be used to describe his ideology. The best two (in my opinion) are ACU (American Conservative Union) and ADA (Americans for Democratic Action) ratings. These basically paint a general picture on how members voted on the most important votes in any given year.

Here are Miller's ratings (ADA on the left, ACU on the right)
2001: 35/60
2002: 30 /54
2003: 10/75
2004: 15/96

Just from looking at that data, it's clear that Miller was one of the most conservative Democrats in the Senate (and one of the most conservative members of both parties in 2004). But let's compare his record to that of another Southern Democrat who retired in 2004, John Breaux. Once again, ADA is on the left, and ACU is on the right.

2001: 55/48
2002: 45/46
2003: 45/40
2004: 80/20

That appears to be pretty much the definition of moderate, minus 2004. Now let's compare Miller to his colleague's from Georgia: Max Cleland (2000-2002) and Saxby Chambliss (2003-2004)

Cleland
2001: 85/36
2002: 65/16

Chambliss
2003: 5/85
2004: 5/96

Comparing Miller to his colleagues, it's clear that he leans much more towards the Republicans than either a very moderate Democrat (Breaux) or a center-left Democrat (Miller). He is far closer to the Republicans on a variety of issues, not just social. But let's go deeper down the rabbit hole. The last three Democrats (besides Miller) to represent Georgia in the United States Senate were Sam Nunn, Max Cleland,  and Wyche Fowler. Let's look at their lifetime ratings to see if Miller was indeed simply a Democrat whose party left him.

Sam Nunn: 45% lifetime rating from the ACU
Max Cleland: 14% lifetime rating from the ACU
Wyche Fowler: 21% lifetime rating from the ACU
Zell Miller: 71% lifetime rating from the ACU

Once again, Miller is far to the right of the average Democrat from Georgia, even going back to the 1970s. Then again, one could argue that none of those three Senators were the sort of "Dixiecrats" whom Miller claimed to be a fan of.  But Herman Talmadge certainly was. He was Governor of Georgia in the 1940s and 1950s, and served the state in the Senate from 1957-1981. He's about as much of a Dixiecrat as you can find. But take a look at his lifetime ACU rating:

Herman Talmadge: 57% lifetime ACU rating

Talmadge is even more liberal than Miller! Based on this data, it's clear that Miller is not a Democrat whose party left him. He was a Democrat who became more conservative following his intense 1994 reelection battle. I would argue that he saw an opportunity to move to the political right as America became more conservative, and thus compromised some of his values. An example of this is how he was once pro-choice, but became pro-life later on in his career and even spoke at the Evangelical "Justice Sunday II." This is not to criticize those who hold socially and economically conservative views. It is simply to say that Miller is incorrect in stating that he did not leave the Democratic Party, but that they left him. One simply has to look at who the Democrat's nominated in 1972, 1984, and 1988 to see that they did not become a liberal party in the 2000s.

The ultimate irony here is that in 1980, then-Lt. Governor Miller ran against Herman Talmadge in the Democratic Primary for the Senate that year, attacking Talmadge from the left and polling his strongest in Atlanta.
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« Reply #26 on: May 02, 2012, 03:08:11 pm »
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I remember that speech. My grandfather had been a Democrat his whole life, he knew Zell Miller, and he saw that speech at the GOP convention as the ultimate betrayal. Miller at one point was a moderate voice that Georgia could be proud of. After that speech he was an embarrassment.

Early in his term as Governor he tried to change the old state flag from the civil rights movement. He received enough criticism from both sides that he eventually just rolled over and scrapped the plan. Pretty weak if you ask me. Georgia Dems began to see the writing on the wall in the 1990's. Many of them made the politically savvy but morally bankrupt move of switching parties. Others stood by their views and were eventually voted out of office. I have much more respect for the latter group.
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« Reply #27 on: May 11, 2012, 10:25:06 pm »
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He wanted to become the first person ever to make the keynote speech at  the conventions of both major parties?

There's also the fact that his attacks on his fellow Dems would have received far less publicity if he had been a Republican.

But yeah, Miller clearly moved well to the right, though he was always a pretty conservative Democrat. The term "DINO" is thrown around a bit too often for my tastes by some of my progressive brethren, but in this case it's well deserved.
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« Reply #28 on: July 27, 2012, 01:47:38 am »
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Zell Miller delivered a ferocious, fire and brimstone speech against John Kerry at the Republican convention in 2004.  Yet only three years earlier, he gave a very warm speech on Kerry's behalf:

http://www.alternet.org/election04/19761/

What happened?  Why did Miller make such a dramatic transformation at the end of his career?

He represented the old southern democrats who were socially conservative and in the middle on economics. Really Miller belonged in the GOP after the Clinton administration if not earlier.
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« Reply #29 on: September 24, 2012, 10:31:48 pm »
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Zell Miller was/is the ultimate opportunist, and a bigger flip-flopper than Mitt Romney.  I have little doubt that his shift to a Democrat-hating Democrat is opportunistic and money oriented, generating sales for his books, TV appearances, etc.  I noted that Miller endorsed Bush for President even while Lieberman was still in the Democratic race; he turned his back on even a like-minded Democrat who was a viable Presidential candiate who may well have picked him as a running mate.  That right there tells me that Miller's shift was all about money.

Miller was chief of staff for LESTER MADDOX!!!  He then became Lt. Gov of Georgia and challenged Herman Talmadge in a Democratic primary, posing as the less conservative candidate.  He lost that race, but was elected Governor, and his 1992 keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention was one of the best keynotes ever; it unveiled Miller as a potential new Democratic star, and there was little reason to believe that Miller would be a possible contender for a spot on the national ticket in 2000.

In 2002 a funny thing happened.  Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes and Democratic Sen. Max Cleland lost re-election in what were not overly nationalized racea.  This event pretty much convinced Miller that he was not likely to be re-elected in 2004.  How he went about selling himself out is a question I'll allow others to answer, but Miller was always a pragmatist, and he saw (A) no way to be re-elected as a Democrat and (B) no way the Republicans would allow him to be their nominee for any office of note.  So he became a GOP star whose books and speaking engagements are in demand; he's probably made more money out of politics than in it. 

I don't begrudge him any of this, but this line that the Democratic Party left him is rubbish.  Miller knew what the Democratic Party was, and the Democratic Party knew what he was.  Miller was NEVER pressured to be more liberal by the national Democratic Party; they only wished for him to oppose them quietly on legislation when he believed he ought to, and support the national ticket if only by announcing he was voting for them.  Miller left because he didn't want to be voted out by the GOP tide in Georgia, and he did it in a way where there was something in it for him, even if it meant betraying folks who supported and voted for him over a period of decades.  Miller was a pure opportunist in 1970, in 1980, in 1992, and in 2004.  He's Mitt Romney's Southern-Fried Role Model.
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« Reply #30 on: October 10, 2013, 04:02:22 pm »
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The Dixiecrat party was going through a transforming time with the Barnes changing the confederate flag. People like Hollings and Barnes were on the left and people like Miller were on the right. When the war on terror begin in 2004, he felt siding with Dubya was the right thing to do.
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« Reply #31 on: October 11, 2013, 02:10:24 am »
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It's because of politicians like Miller that people hate politics. The man is either an opportunist, a traitor or just simply insane.
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« Reply #32 on: October 11, 2013, 03:02:31 am »
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It's because of politicians like Miller that people hate politics. The man is either an opportunist, a traitor or just simply insane.

Would you say the same thing about Lincoln Chaffe or Jim Jeffords? Or Miller is an admirable man for sticking to his values and principles instead of blindly following his party? What do you have to say to this?
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« Reply #33 on: October 11, 2013, 03:34:06 am »
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It's because of politicians like Miller that people hate politics. The man is either an opportunist, a traitor or just simply insane.

I'll go with the last one.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXpuEFansic
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« Reply #34 on: October 11, 2013, 03:39:56 am »
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2004: 15/96

What's crazy is that a 96 ACU rating was to the right of most Republicans, including Rick Santorum. Zell Miller went from a pro-choice Democrat to Larry McDonald II.
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« Reply #35 on: October 11, 2013, 03:44:01 am »
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2004: 15/96

What's crazy is that a 96 ACU rating was to the right of most Republicans, including Rick Santorum. Zell Miller went from a pro-choice Democrat to Larry McDonald II.

Do you think it's a big deal?
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« Reply #36 on: October 11, 2013, 03:21:21 pm »
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It's because of politicians like Miller that people hate politics. The man is either an opportunist, a traitor or just simply insane.

Would you say the same thing about Lincoln Chaffe or Jim Jeffords? Or Miller is an admirable man for sticking to his values and principles instead of blindly following his party? What do you have to say to this?

Did Chaffe have some big conversion?

Quote from: en.wikipedia.org
Chafee's liberal stances as a Republican led to some conservatives to refer to him as a "Republican In Name Only", or RINO. Most notable among these was Human Events magazine, which named Chafee "the No. 1 RINO in the country."

Not sure how you can lump Zell in with a lot of people of both parties who have switched.
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« Reply #37 on: October 12, 2013, 07:09:32 pm »
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It's because of politicians like Miller that people hate politics. The man is either an opportunist, a traitor or just simply insane.

Would you say the same thing about Lincoln Chaffe or Jim Jeffords? Or Miller is an admirable man for sticking to his values and principles instead of blindly following his party? What do you have to say to this?

Did Chaffe have some big conversion?

Quote from: en.wikipedia.org
Chafee's liberal stances as a Republican led to some conservatives to refer to him as a "Republican In Name Only", or RINO. Most notable among these was Human Events magazine, which named Chafee "the No. 1 RINO in the country."

Not sure how you can lump Zell in with a lot of people of both parties who have switched.
No Chafee was liberal for a early to mid 2000's Republican. By the time he took over his father's US Senate Seat the Republicans were pretty much a Southern Party. I think he would have fit in better pre-Gingrich Revolution 1994 with the Party.
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« Reply #38 on: October 12, 2013, 09:23:15 pm »
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It's because of politicians like Miller that people hate politics. The man is either an opportunist, a traitor or just simply insane.

Would you say the same thing about Lincoln Chaffe or Jim Jeffords? Or Miller is an admirable man for sticking to his values and principles instead of blindly following his party? What do you have to say to this?
But that's not the issue, nor even what's being discussed in this thread. Compare Zell Miller's keynote address at the 1992 Democratic Convention, in which he praised the social safety net and the Democratic presidents who built it, with his record in the Senate or any speech he gave after 2002 and you'll see the contradiction. It wasn't a matter of the party leaving him or him sticking to the principles. Either something deep within him changed or he was a con-man and an opportunist all along.
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« Reply #39 on: March 11, 2014, 09:39:22 pm »
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Zell Miller didn't change. His party left him. Miller stands exactly where Democrats did in the 50's as I do myself for the most part.

Sorry, dude, but this dog don't hunt!

The Democratic Party, for the entire length of Miller's political career, was the more liberal party that had a conservative wing to it, comprised mostly of its white Southern members. 

Let's look at Miller's career choices.  He started out on the right, as Lester Maddox's Chief of Staff.  He became Lt. Gov of Georgia in 1974 at a time when Jimmy Carter was starting to run for President, the National Democratic Party was actively seeking a centrist alternative to challenge George Wallace in the South, and the national party was actively (A) trying to bring in line its Southern members by insisting that its committee chairmen in the Congress adhere more closely to the national party line (no more Howard Smiths), while (B) building up Southern Democrats who had moderate voting records, but who were supportive of ending segregation and who would support the party's natonal ticket for President, if only in a lukewarm manner. 

This was Miller's time to bail.  Instead, he challenged Sen. Herman Talmadge in a 1980 Democratic Primary FROM THE LEFT!  (Rep. Dawson Mathis was his conservative challenger.)  Miller supported Mondale, Dukakis, and he gave a speech for Clinton at the 1992 DNC that led me to believe that he would be the Next Big Thing in Democratic politics.  His turn to the right and abandoning the Democratic Party was not something people foresaw in 1999, when he was named to fill the Senate vacancy caused by the death of Republican Sen. Paul Coverdell.

And there's no doubt that Miller, had he chose to, could have endorsed Kerry, however tepidly, and been reelected to the Senate in 2004.  It would have been tough, but I believe he would have prevailed.  He could have easily been a Democrat supporting the Iraq War and prevailed.  Until 2001 or so, his views and votes were within the midrange of the Democratic Party.

What I believe is that Miller sold out.  He needed and wanted money, and he got some.  Without his bailing on the Democrats, who would read his books?  Who would seek his endorsement or his opinions on FOX News?  Who cares about Dale Bumpers these days?  Miller is a bigger star today, and a bigger moneymaker, then Sam Nunn, who had a far more substantive career, and who seemed to hold moderately conservative views without feeling evicted or abandoned by the Democratic Party.  It's all about the Benjamins for Miller; the Benjamins that come from celebrity.  But his assertions that "the Democrats left me", or "the Democrats are no longer a national party" is hogwash for the sake of making a buck.
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« Reply #40 on: March 11, 2014, 10:40:00 pm »
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The biggest difference between Conservative Southern Democrats and Liberal Northeastern Republicans was that the latter were far more willing to put their own differences with the party aside to do what the leadership wanted, while the former were more likely to raise an active fuss when they didn't get their way and either threaten to run as independents or simply defect to the GOP.

From the end of World War II, when the hardcore Gilded Age-style Republicans who were strongly anti-New Deal had either retired, died or been voted out of office, until the rise of the Reagan Coalition in the late 1970s, the three overarching themes that held the GOP together were:

(i) Being more strongly anti-communist than the Democrats, either in substance or in style/perception.
(ii) A desire for the New Deal, Great Society and other welfare state programs to be run "more efficiently" which could cover anything from modest Dewey/Rockefeller-style tinkering to flirting with wholesale privatization.
(iii) General distance from organized labor, for reasons ranging from a good government desire to avoid corrupt machine politics to a general desire to destroy any bargaining power for workers in order to enrich large corporations.

When push came to shove, all Republicans, from the left to the right, were willing to vote in ways that advanced these three planks.

By comparison, I can't think of a single issue in the post-New Deal era where the entire spectrum of Democrats were willing to present a unified front on anything. And when defections happened, it was inevitably a case of a conservative (usually Southern) Democrat siding with the Republicans on a given issue.
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« Reply #41 on: March 12, 2014, 10:39:50 pm »
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Nathan Deal seems like a clone of Zell Miller, only then-Congressman Deal switched parties in 1995.
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« Reply #42 on: March 14, 2014, 01:30:49 pm »
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How can a Democrat get a 95 from ACU? Just can't figure it out. I think he was a Centrist Dem in the 80's and 90's and than as the South/North Political Realignment sorted itself out in the 2000's he sided with the Republicans more and more.
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« Reply #43 on: March 14, 2014, 08:26:32 pm »
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I could have sworn that I posted in this thread some months back. Guess not: oh well.

I think he changed views because of the War in Iraq. Most of his fire and brimstone speech had that as its subject. Just a guess.

This is a basic yet sufficient explanation for the final three years or so of his political career. It's as if 9/11 and the war in Iraq broke something inside of him. There is a great two-hour interview that he did from 2006 where (towards the end), he kind of explains that religion got to him later in life and made him regret a lot of his past decisions and behavior (to be fair, he compared some of his behavior while in the Senate to this, as well). He waxes about how national security is the number one thing we have to worry about and how the moral fabric of the country is coming undone. If you want to know about where Zell Miller came from, how he made it into politics and most of his story (minus the corrupt parts, of course), then you should check it out.

It should also be noted that Georgians had a certain term for Zell, going back to at least his first term as Governor:



Also, maybe this is why.
 
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« Reply #44 on: May 10, 2014, 03:00:41 pm »
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Zell Miller didn't change. His party left him. Miller stands exactly where Democrats did in the 50's as I do myself for the most part.

Then go be a Democrat.  Zell Miller is a hack.
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« Reply #45 on: May 12, 2014, 11:03:07 am »
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Zell Miller was more of an early 70s southern Democrat than a 50s one.
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« Reply #46 on: May 18, 2014, 06:43:00 pm »
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It's because of politicians like Miller that people hate politics. The man is either an opportunist, a traitor or just simply insane.

Would you say the same thing about Lincoln Chaffe or Jim Jeffords? Or Miller is an admirable man for sticking to his values and principles instead of blindly following his party? What do you have to say to this?

Chaffee did not switch parties until after his electoral defeat.  As a Senator, he was dovish, but did not volubly oppose the national GOP.  He stated that he would "write in" George H. W. Bush for President in 2004 rather than vote for W., but c'mon now.

Jeffords never became a Democrat, but he became an Independent who caucused with the Democrats solely over a local parochial pork-barrel issue.  Jeffords was a huge supporter of the Northeast Dairy Compact, a subsidy program to dairy farmers that benefitted Vermont's dairy farmers, and Jeffords was it's cheerleader.  In 2001, the Bush Administration decided not to renew this program.  Whatever the flaws of the program, the Bush Administration didn't seem to understand just how important this program was to Jeffords, whose caucus switch shifted control of the Senate from the GOP to the Democrats.  That's the entire reason that Jeffords switched. 

Had the Northeast Dairy Compact been renewed, Jeffords likely would have remained a Republican.  He was never in electoral danger in Vermont; Vermonters saw him as a guy with some clout who wasn't a mossback conservative.  Despite his moderate record, Jeffords was well-regarded by his GOP colleagues, and on good terms with the GOP leadership.  Trent Lott took pains to cultivate Jeffords, knowing that Jeffords was the most liberal member of the GOP caucus, but understanding that he was elected from liberal Vermont.  Despite his status as a Republican, Jeffords was in no danger of being defeated at the polls; he was no less popular than Susan Collins in Maine is now.

Perhaps Jeffords was hanging onto his GOP label solely for its value in fighting for Vermont's Dairy Farmers.  I can understand this, but to shift the balance of the entire Senate to the Democrats over a parochial issue less than a year after being re-elected as a Republican is not exactly keeping faith with the majority of folks that elected you.
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« Reply #47 on: May 19, 2014, 02:19:50 am »
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It's because of politicians like Miller that people hate politics. The man is either an opportunist, a traitor or just simply insane.

Would you say the same thing about Lincoln Chaffe or Jim Jeffords? Or Miller is an admirable man for sticking to his values and principles instead of blindly following his party? What do you have to say to this?

Chaffee did not switch parties until after his electoral defeat.  As a Senator, he was dovish, but did not volubly oppose the national GOP.  He stated that he would "write in" George H. W. Bush for President in 2004 rather than vote for W., but c'mon now.

Jeffords never became a Democrat, but he became an Independent who caucused with the Democrats solely over a local parochial pork-barrel issue.  Jeffords was a huge supporter of the Northeast Dairy Compact, a subsidy program to dairy farmers that benefitted Vermont's dairy farmers, and Jeffords was it's cheerleader.  In 2001, the Bush Administration decided not to renew this program.  Whatever the flaws of the program, the Bush Administration didn't seem to understand just how important this program was to Jeffords, whose caucus switch shifted control of the Senate from the GOP to the Democrats.  That's the entire reason that Jeffords switched. 

Had the Northeast Dairy Compact been renewed, Jeffords likely would have remained a Republican.  He was never in electoral danger in Vermont; Vermonters saw him as a guy with some clout who wasn't a mossback conservative.  Despite his moderate record, Jeffords was well-regarded by his GOP colleagues, and on good terms with the GOP leadership.  Trent Lott took pains to cultivate Jeffords, knowing that Jeffords was the most liberal member of the GOP caucus, but understanding that he was elected from liberal Vermont.  Despite his status as a Republican, Jeffords was in no danger of being defeated at the polls; he was no less popular than Susan Collins in Maine is now.

Perhaps Jeffords was hanging onto his GOP label solely for its value in fighting for Vermont's Dairy Farmers.  I can understand this, but to shift the balance of the entire Senate to the Democrats over a parochial issue less than a year after being re-elected as a Republican is not exactly keeping faith with the majority of folks that elected you.

Jeffords left because the Republican party had become too right-wing for him.

Of course the Republican party has gone even further to the right since then. Look at who proposed a rule change to prevent Senators from switching parties in 2001 after Jeffords left?

Specter.

Yes, Specter.
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« Reply #48 on: May 20, 2014, 08:36:01 pm »
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It's because of politicians like Miller that people hate politics. The man is either an opportunist, a traitor or just simply insane.

Would you say the same thing about Lincoln Chaffe or Jim Jeffords? Or Miller is an admirable man for sticking to his values and principles instead of blindly following his party? What do you have to say to this?

Chaffee did not switch parties until after his electoral defeat.  As a Senator, he was dovish, but did not volubly oppose the national GOP.  He stated that he would "write in" George H. W. Bush for President in 2004 rather than vote for W., but c'mon now.

Jeffords never became a Democrat, but he became an Independent who caucused with the Democrats solely over a local parochial pork-barrel issue.  Jeffords was a huge supporter of the Northeast Dairy Compact, a subsidy program to dairy farmers that benefitted Vermont's dairy farmers, and Jeffords was it's cheerleader.  In 2001, the Bush Administration decided not to renew this program.  Whatever the flaws of the program, the Bush Administration didn't seem to understand just how important this program was to Jeffords, whose caucus switch shifted control of the Senate from the GOP to the Democrats.  That's the entire reason that Jeffords switched. 

Had the Northeast Dairy Compact been renewed, Jeffords likely would have remained a Republican.  He was never in electoral danger in Vermont; Vermonters saw him as a guy with some clout who wasn't a mossback conservative.  Despite his moderate record, Jeffords was well-regarded by his GOP colleagues, and on good terms with the GOP leadership.  Trent Lott took pains to cultivate Jeffords, knowing that Jeffords was the most liberal member of the GOP caucus, but understanding that he was elected from liberal Vermont.  Despite his status as a Republican, Jeffords was in no danger of being defeated at the polls; he was no less popular than Susan Collins in Maine is now.

Perhaps Jeffords was hanging onto his GOP label solely for its value in fighting for Vermont's Dairy Farmers.  I can understand this, but to shift the balance of the entire Senate to the Democrats over a parochial issue less than a year after being re-elected as a Republican is not exactly keeping faith with the majority of folks that elected you.

Jeffords left because the Republican party had become too right-wing for him.

Of course the Republican party has gone even further to the right since then. Look at who proposed a rule change to prevent Senators from switching parties in 2001 after Jeffords left?

Specter.

Yes, Specter.

The GOP has gone way to the right, but Chaffee, Snowe, and Collins never switched while sitting Senators.  Chaffee didn't switch until he was defeated for re-election, when he concluded that a Republican would have a nearly impossible row to hoe in RI and that he may not be able to win future GOP primaries after failing to endorse W in 2004.

Jeffords did this solely because of the Bush 43 Administration cancelling the Northeast Dairy Compact.  It had nothing to do with ideology; that only comes into play when you are in a situation where you are unable to either (A) win your party's nomination or (B) prevail in the General Election over the opposition party.  Jeffords was not in either situation; he had been protected by the GOP leadership over the years, and had been cultivated by Trent Lott who, while far more conservative than Jeffords, recognized his need for Jeffords's vote to organize the Senate.  The Vermont GOP was/is more pragmatic than many; they were not going to jettison a Senator such as Jeffords who was never in a single bit of danger over being defeated at the polls, and Vermont has never dumped a moderate Republican incumbent over mere ideology.

It sounds better for Jeffords for people to say that he left over the lofty principle of the rightward philosophical drift of the national GOP then to say that he shifted the balance of the Senate over a parochial pork-barrel issue, but that's what happened.  I liked Jeffords; he was an independent guy and, given that he was willing to offend others greatly by causing a wholesale shift in the balance of power in the Senate, he's a guy I'd want in my corner when the chips were down.  But if the Northeast Dairy Compact had been renewed in 2001, Jeffords would have remained a Republican, without a lot of fanfare. 
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