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Matt Osborne: Parker Griffith’s Christmas Present To Alabama Democrats

December 23rd, 2009, 09:12 am admin Leave a comment Go to comments

Parker Griffith, my representative, is switching from the Democratic Party to the Republicans. This is not shocking news, as rumors have been swirling for months and Griffith has been reciting right-wing memes for a very long time.

For example: at an August town hall in Florence, Alabama, Griffith pandered to the worst elements of the crowd. From death panels to immigration hysteria, he didn’t miss a single teabagger talking point.

Hefting H.R. 3200 in the air, he emphasized its dimensions. He openly advocated removing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Minimizing climate change, he drew applause by denouncing Waxman-Markey. He openly ridiculed union leaders and implied that massive deficits magically appeared with the inauguration of Barack Obama.

In short, Griffith was always a Republican. That someone who boasts an astoundingly low seven percent progressive rating versus a 33% conservative rating has turned coat should be shocking only to a few cave-dwellers. It’s not unusual for Blue Dogs to oppose abortion, for instance, but Griffith actually voted against the Lily Ledbetter Act; that’s beyond “conservative,” or even paleoconservative. It’s Cambrian conservative.

Consider what happened when I begged him to cosponsor H.R. 1310, the Clean Water Restoration Act. Since the December 2008 collapse of a retaining pond dumped millions of cubic yards of fly ash into the Tennessee River, which runs right down the length of his district, you might expect Griffith to at least feign concern for the issue.

Instead, I got a form letter acknowledging that H.R. 1310 existed. It was a bill. Beyond that, nothing.

Griffith was a Democrat the same way George Wallace was a Democrat — that is, only Democrats could get elected in Alabama back then. Griffith is cut from the very same mold as Wallace: pandering to the worst instincts of the rabble with the politics of fear and division. Listen to his announcement yesterday; it’s chock full of wingnutery:

Griffith can’t even be honest about his reasons. Speaking to POLITICO, Griffith made the case that Obama’s cancellation of a missile shield was his proximate cause for the switch. Sure, the strategic choice of a sea-based system closer to Iran did take one contract away from Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, at the center of his district. But that was just one of thousands of contracts in the area, and it was in September. Why now?

Understand that AL-5, the district Griffith represents, has elected a Republican representative exactly twice since the Civil War — and one of those times was during Reconstruction, when no Democrats were allowed to run. AL-5 was the only district of Alabama to go for Walter Mondale in 1984. In comparison, the GOP is still badly and thinly organized.

Griffith used the Democratic machine to get to the general election. Having been elected by a razor-thin margin over Republican Wayne Parker (a wingnut among wingnuts), and seeing a surge of teabaggery brought on by Obama Derangement Syndrome, Griffith hopes to dominate any Republican primary opponents and face an empty Democratic field.

But it might not work out that way.

More than a few AL-5 Democrats (and ALL of its progressives, who are more numerous than you might expect) were already tired of Griffith’s self-serving behavior. An oncologist, Griffith speaks of tort reform as a magic silver bullet to solve the health care crisis; but he made his sizable fortune by embracing the trend towards patients-as-profit-centers. Now that he’s switched parties, the Democratic voters who put him in office are furious.

But consider the fire into which Griffith has leaped from his partisan frying pan. Griffith is embracing the national organization that paid for this disgusting ad (h/t to GottaLaff):

Griffith embraces the Teabag Terror at his own peril. The local activists of the Grand Old Party have been trained to think of him as evil, and the approval of Michael Steele isn’t going to change that. Red State’s Eric Erickson has already declared him persona non grata:

We should now hope him [sic] be an extremely endangered Republican in a primary. We will not fix the GOP’s problems if we keep allowing people who are not one of us to suddenly switch the letter next to their name and magically become one of us.

The teabagger who was already running for the GOP primary is not stepping down:

Madison County Commissioner Mo Brooks will be remaining in the race, according to his campaign manager Bruce Tucker, who called Griffith’s party switch “a desperate political move.”

Dale Jackson, the Rush Limbaugh of Huntsville, has spoken:

He’s a liar. Michael Steele should be ashamed of himself. The NRCC should be ashamed of itself for not coming out and immediately repudiating this guy. He was unacceptable a year ago and he’s acceptable now? A year ago, they were saying this guy was a murderer.

What seems to be shaping up in Alabama is another NY-23. The national party may have welcomed Griffith as its new incumbent, but the local party is balking. Nationally, teabaggers are only too eager to fight internecine battles for control of the party. What it adds up to is a chance for someone to become the Bill Owens of northern Alabama.

Griffith has guaranteed himself the hardest possible road to reelection; the GOP primary will be brutal, and the teabaggers have no qualms about running as independents. Alabama politics just got a lot more interesting.

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