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Vogel: Switching Parties

I never thought I’d live in an America where small children would be taken from mothers seeking safety in the United States. And I’ve been feeling helpless to stop this cruelty. But it’s occurred to me that there might be a potential solution if only we could convince two of the three retiring Republican Senators to switch parties.

The origins of my idea can be found in President John Kennedy’s book called Profiles in Courage, in which he described eight senators who defied their party to do what they felt was right.

And most of us remember how in 2001 Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords announced “Increasingly, I find myself in disagreement with my party” - and then walked across the aisle, putting the Democratic Party in control of the Senate.

Today, Senators Bob Corker, Jeff Flake and Orin Hatch have all announced they will not seek reelection in 2018 – and they have all expressed strong disagreements with some of the policies and practices of the current administration. So what we need now is a profiles in courage moment.

If two of them - or even one of them along with Senator John McCain - were to become Independents who caucused with the Democratic Party, it would tip the balance of power in the Senate. Chuck Schumer would then become Senate Majority Leader and could force the administration to change this terrible policy by threatening to block appointments and legislative initiatives.

Even for a retiring Senator, switching parties would require personal sacrifices. Senators Hatch and Corker might lose their powerful committee chairmanships and whoever switched would be widely condemned by the opposition and the conservative media. They might even lose some lucrative post retirement opportunities. But any senator with enough courage to make this move would long be remembered for defending families and upholding American values.

Since our founding, many congressmen have switched parties - including John Quincy Adams who left the Federalist Party that had nominated and helped elect his father as President. Adams did so because, like Senator Jeffords, he felt that the party no longer reflected his values and he considered himself, as he put it, a “man of my whole country.”

To have a chance of changing this policy, it would only take two of the retiring Republican Senators to hear the cries of small children and put service to country ahead of party loyalty.

John Vogel is a retired professor from the Tuck School of Business. His tenure at Dartmouth began in 1992, where he taught Real Estate and Entrepreneurship in the Social Sector, among other subjects. He was named by the “Business Week Guide” to Business Schools as one of Tuck’s “Outstanding Faculty” members.
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