Originally created 07/24/99

The party switchers



Hey, that wasn't George W. Bush who left the Republican Party the other day to join the Democrats. It was Michael Forbes, a New York congressman. But you'd never know that from some of the media coverage, especially in Washington where Forbes was portrayed as a "compassionate conservative" who really understood the term.

Inexplicably, as a Republican, he voted for all four articles of impeachment against President Clinton -- yet Clinton pridefully cluck-clucked that he helped "convert" Forbes. Strange bedfellows, indeed.

But it's not going to be all sweetness and light for the Democrat in his new party. Suddenly, Forbes found himself without a staff; they resigned en masse after learning of the switch.

Also, not all Democrats are as welcoming as Clinton. Many in the New York congressional delegation labeled Forbes an "extremist" when he voted for impeachment. They're not changing their opinion of him this soon.

And Forbes won't be getting a free ride in next year's primary. A top aide of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, New York's wildly popular U.S. senator who's retiring next year, is expected to challenge Forbes.

Yet even if he scrapes through the primary he has a huge task ahead of him. Forbes' district is about 60 percent Republican and, like the congressman's own staff, they don't take kindly to "traitors." It looks like Forbes cut his own political throat -- all for a few days of favorable publicity from the liberal media.

Actually, when it comes to party switches, Republicans do far better than Democrats. The party is making remarkable strides at the grass-roots.

There have been more than 100 Democrat-to-Republican crossovers since the GOP took control of Congress five years ago. Just this month, 13 northern Florida elected Democrats -- city councilors, county commissioners and the like -- switched to the GOP, including Chipley Councilman Price Wilson, the second elected black Democrat in Florida to make the switch.

"I'm discouraged with the Democrats," said Wilson. "The Republican party is better able to fulfill the hopes and dreams of the African-American community."