Ethics Dunce: West Virginia Governor: Jim Justice

Gov Justice went to a Republican rally, and all he got was this T-shirt…seemed to fit, though…

I’ve written about party-switching by elected officials before; unfortunately, it was on the old Ethics Scoreboard, which is temporarily in limbo thanks to an incompetent web hosting service and some corrupted old disks. I can summarize the proper ethics standard for the practice, however. It was demonstrated perfectly by the  now retired former Republican U.S. Senator from Texas, Phil Gramm. Just days after  he had been reelected to a House seat  as a Democrat in 1982, Gramm was thrown off the House Budget Committee in a dispute with party leadership. In response, Gramm resigned as a Representative, changed parties, and ran for his old seat as a Republican in a special election. He won easily, and  was a Republican ever after. That’s the honorable way to do it.

Or, you could be like West Virginia Governor Jim Justice, who announced that he was flipping  from the Democratic Party to the GOP at last night’s  rally with President Trump.

Most party-switchers, virtually all of them, in fact, have been like Justice, not Gramm. “Everybody does it,” however, isn’t justification. This is a betrayal of the party that nominated Justice, and a bait-and-switch on the voters.

It is extremely rare for a state governor to switch parties mid-term, according to the Wikipedia list of such turn-coating. Senators are the worst offenders: within recent memory we had the examples of  Richard Shelby of Alabama (Democrat to Republican),  Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado (Democrat to Republican),  Robert Smith of New Hampshire (Republican to Independent, then back to Republican again), James Jeffords of Vermont (Republican to Democrat), Joe Lieberman of Connecticut (Democrat to Independent) and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania (Republican to Democrat).

Any elected official who does this to those who voted for him has proven himself (Or herself, but I can’t find any women who have switched parties mid-term) to be unworthy of the support of any party. It would be wonderful if the Republicans told Governor Justice that they don’t appreciate or endorse cheaters, back-stabbers or traitors.

It would also be wonderful if I could fly to Maui by flapping my arms.

33 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: West Virginia Governor: Jim Justice

  1. Joe Lieberman, for his many faults, did not drop his party affiliation until the end of his penultimate Senate term to run as an independent after losing the Democratic nomination.

      • How did Murkowski do it when she lost her primary – I forget. I think I remember that she ran as an independent in the election and then changed back, but I can’t be sure I am remembering that right.

        • Murkowski ran as an independent write in candidate, and won. Alaska’s filing deadline to run is prior to the primary, so a primary loser can’t run as an independent unless it is as a write in.

        • What Lieberman and Murkowski did is lose a primary because they were not ideologically pure enough, then ran and won as the centrist, and ended up caucusing with their original party. I don’t see this as being in the same category as Jim Justice. There is no bait-and-switch on the voters. Yes, they are professional politicians trying to keep their jobs, but I don’t see the ethics principle that requires them to step aside when they are capable of winning as independents. And sometimes the people are better off with a serious third party candidacy than with the options the major parties provide (see election 2016).

        • Murkowsky is only a Senator because of the worst kind of nepotism and cronyism; since she never should have been Senator in the first place, I don’t care about the nuances of her staying in office.

  2. I kind of wish John McCain would switch to Democrat either way. Or if that is too much to ask him, how about a switch to Independent? The Republicans would be glad to get rid of him.

    • Wayne, I wonder whether Jake Flake will survive a challenge from the right in the future. He seems to be taking over the John McCain Senatorial chair here in Arizona. He may be unbeatable though since he has the Mormon Senatorial chair here in Arizona. I’m also assuming John McCain is, unfortunately for him and his family, not long for this world, never mind the Senate.

  3. Actually you did write about this at some length after Arlen Specter stabbed the GOP in the back and helped get Obamacare passed, on the promise that Harry Reid would arrange for all his seniority to transfer over and give him some powerful committee positions. Harry Reid didn’t deliver, and Specter went on to lose the Democratic primary, and go toes up soon after. No big loss.

      • (I have sympathy for characters like him)

        (But make no mistake, for him, it only goes so far, and not very far)

        (Chalk that up to as much moral luck as you want… that’s that)

    • The only problem with one minute history lessons such as this is that it treats Arnold’s treason as if that were the sole, defining action of his life. Defining to be sure, but Arnold was arguably the best general we had in the first few years of the war, which of course was one reason he was in command of such an important fort. Tragically flawed, though, at least from our perspective. I imagine the British saw Andre as a hero.

      What also occurs to me just now is that it is interesting that we had no equivalent situations during the Civil War — at least I can’t think of any high ranking, trusted officer who switched sides in mid war.

      There were some Copperheads, to be sure, who talked a good game but by and large, when faced with actual serious Confederate fighting men, were all bark and no bite.

      • Don’t you think, the civil war is a special circumstance?

        Any officer bearing a federal commission was a turncoat when they joined the confederacy. And though legally any southern born man staying with the union was legally justified, he commuted an act, in that day and age, that was socially tantamount to what Arnold did.

        • Definitely special circumstances. It was not your typical civil war, where turncoats and betrayals are common. Most civil wars don’t see the two armies fraternizing with each other, trading goods, discussing politics and generals — and then going out the next day to a no holds barred fight (the Missouri theater was more of your typical vicious civil war).

          There were officers, mostly southern I believe, who fought against their own state, but I don’t think there was any special stigma attached to them.

      • I get what Arnold did, given the pressures he and all the revolutionaries were under.

        But still. I’m gonna declare that I’m allowed to be irrationally partisan on this topic.

        Screw Benedict Arnold.

  4. You’re absolutely right, Jack. Partisan bait-and-switching, no matter who’s ox is being gored, is flatly unethical. It is a betrayal of your party, your voters, and your state/district. It is always to be condemned.

    • Changing your party affiliation is not per se unethical. Doing it while still expecting to retain your elected office is.

      • I’m still meditating on this one. I’m not sure if the quantum philosophy of contractual obligations breaks down or doesn’t breaks down when it meets the quantum philosophy of representative democracy.

          • If you were elected running on one set of principles, then changed to a party who’s positions mostly opposed or didn’t support those principles while still holding the office, it seems hard to say it would be an ethical (not to mention potentially hypocritical) thing to do.

            I think wyogranny is right when he points out that it wouldn’t be unethical, necessarily, to change political parties and then face voters after that. Given the diametric opposition between Democrat and Republican parties on most issues, it would depend on how much such a person’s position changes as to whether or not it would be flatly hypocritical, and therefore of questionable ethical character. That’s how I see it, anyway.

            In the instant case, you could argue that the voters wouldn’t have elected the governor as a Republican, so he essentially stole the seat from the Democrats by winning under false pretenses.

            • As I say in my post, I won’t shed a tear for the Democrats – they were trying to paint over a leopard and call it a panther, and they damn well knew it. The voters are the real victims, and the Dems are just as complicit in the theft as the governor himself.

      • Yeah, I think that’s right. If you change, then face the voters, it would’t be unethical. I should’ve qualified that comment. Thanks.

  5. It would also be wonderful if I could fly to Maui by flapping my arms.

    You have to wish bigger, Jack.

    “It would also be wonderful if I could visit Maui by clicking my ruby red slippers together three times.”

    Your version seems like so much work

  6. Visualize it: two billionaires on the same platform, claiming affiliation to the same party, and both owing millions of dollars in unpaid taxes.

  7. I’ve heard numerous liberals note that it may have been just as unethical for the Democrats to run him in the first place; he’d initially been a Republican, and his positions stayed the same throughout. All he changed was the letter behind his name. It seems to me like a betrayal to run a candidate who opposes the party platform at every turn, and, while his conduct is terrible, I think the worse injury to the voters is that they had no real choice in the election. They got to choose between a right-wing Republican and a right-wing Democrat, and the fact that he changed his affiliation back doesn’t change the fact that he was right-wing the whole time.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is this: shame on him for the bait-and-switch, but shame on the Democratic Party for letting him run under their banner in the first place. Whatever you have to say about the ideological left or right, the voters deserve a choice.

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