Republicans quit Jim

By Will Baker

I know Jim Jeffords, and members of his staff as well. I am neither a registered Republican nor Democrat. Like many of my fellow Vermonters I am an Independent. And I have voted for "Jeffords," as he is called here, each time that I have had the opportunity. You know, as I listen to the talking heads holding forth on the matter of his "defection" I can only smile. Even though reporters from all over the country have descended upon our quiet little state today, to cover the story of his "defection," I can assure you that some of what you are hearing about the man is not true. Nor is what you are being told regarding the reaction of most Vermonters to his actions. And based on what I am hearing on the Vermont political "grape-vine," I am quite convinced that he has already made his decision, and is coming home, as he should, to make his announcement to the people that count: the folks that sent him to D.C. in the first place.

Jim Jeffords was a fourth generation "Yankee" Republican. And given my personal knowledge of his steadfastness, I know that his decision to change party affiliations was not taken lightly. I am quite certain that he is not changing parties out of personal political expediency. No, he cares about some issues a great deal: the environment, education and the preservation of the family farm to name a few. And I believe that he feels as if the Republican Party has left him behind. The whole situation reminds me of when Ronald Reagan left the Democratic Party. I believe he said: "I have not left the Party, the Party has left me." It seems to me that not too long ago moderate Republicans were much more common than they are today. And they had a voice in helping to craft their Party’s agenda. But over the years, as the Republicans moved more and more to the Right, Jeffords became alienated.

And I should also set the record straight regarding Jefford’s power-base. His move will no doubt upset some of the Vermont Republican Party faithful, but by and large, it’s not a big deal here. By his actions, over the years we have come to trust him. We’ve sent him to Washington time and time again (the last time by a near land-slide), and my guess is that, no matter what his affiliation, the job is his as long as he wants it. Yet the pundits talk about a potential backlash from the voters "back home," and the background for their reports is the beautiful Vermont countryside--as if broadcasting from Vermont might lend credence to what they are saying. No, Jeffords has nothing to worry about. In fact, judging by what I have seen and heard, Vermonters are enjoying the spectacle.

Independent, straight talking honest folks live in the Green Mountains. And tomorrow, when Jeffords tells us all why he did what he did, I am sure he will speak plainly. He is not an eloquent man. But he is honest, and a hard worker. Oh, and he does not lie. So we Vermonters will probably believe what he has to say. And I dare say that the majority of us will be pleased that he did it, pleased that, by his actions, the Senate will probably be confirming a different set of judges-including potential Supreme Court Justices, than if the Republican Party had not left him... Not to mention the impact of his actions on future of the Bush Energy Plan: A Recipe for Disaster.




 (Essay Collection)