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Former Washington Journalist
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press
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Republicans no doubt are crowing over freshman Rep Jeff Van Drew’s decision to switch political parties, from Democratic to Republican, over his break about Donald Trump’s impeachment.
But, when all is said and done, Van Drew will be left crying over his decision for its perhaps the most foolish that he could have made in his young political career.
That Van Drew opposes impeachment is no secret, but it’s not an issue he had to switch parties over. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is smart enough to know that her members would have to go their own ways on impeachment. Many will support it, but some will oppose it for various reasons, and that’s okay.
But Van Drew has just sent himself into oblivion. For one thing, he’s party-switching himself into the minority. That’s a foolish proposition right there, particularly since with so many Republican retirements this year, no one realistically expects Republicans to retake the majority next year–impeachment or no impeachment.
And, unlike the Senate, members of the House minority have essentially no power to affect policy whatsoever. Members in the minority can make speeches and send press releases. That’s the extent of it.
So Jeff Van Drew has traded the potential to move up the ranks in the majority, for that. All over one vote. Yes, a consequential vote, but a single vote nonetheless.
The last time Congress saw big-time party-switching, it was back in 1995 after the Republicans had taken control over both chambers of Congress for the first time in 40 years. In that case, you had Democrats rushing to become Republicans–but at least it was to remain in the majority.
That made sense, at least in a cravenly political way.
And so far, we’ve only been talking about the remainder of Van Drew’s current term.
Brigid Callahan Harrison, a local political science professor, had already signalled that she would challenge Van Drew in a primary.
She now becomes his natural Democratic opponent next year. And although Van Drew’s district was previously held by a Republican, that was by a single Republican for 20 years.
Without a long-term incumbent, New Jersey’s Second Congressional District reverts back to what it is: a total swing district with a Cook Partisan Voter Index of only R+1.
That means that a Republican has no real advantage here. And now the Democratic voters who put Jeff Van Drew in that seat last year will be highly motivated by betrayal now to take him out of it.
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