L.A. Times - For Democrats, Ashley Bell was the kind of comer that a party builds a future on: A young African American lawyer, he served as president of the College Democrats of America, advised presidential candidate John Edwards and spoke at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.
But after his party’s midterm beat-down in November, Bell, a commissioner in northern Georgia’s Hall County, jumped ship. He joined the Republicans.
Bell, 30, said he had serious issues with the healthcare law and believed that conservative “blue dog” Democrats in Congress who shared his values had been bullied into voting for it.
Bell’s defection is one of dozens by state and local Democratic officials in the Deep South in recent months that underscore Republicans’ continued consolidation of power in the region — a process that started with presidential politics but increasingly affects government down to the level of dogcatcher.
“I think the midterms showed you really can’t be a conservative and be a member of the Democratic Party,” Bell said.
Since the midterm election, 24 state senators and representatives have made the switch in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Texas.
In some cases, the ramifications have been profound: In Louisiana, defecting Democrats gave Republicans a majority in the state House for the first time since Reconstruction; in Alabama, they delivered the GOP a House supermajority. Republicans have 65 votes to the Democrats’ 39, enough to pass constitutional amendments over Democratic opposition.
The trend continued through late January — when nine officials in Lamar County in northeastern Texas left the Democratic Party — and into last week, when Louisiana Atty. Gen. James D. “Buddy” Caldwell switched parties, leaving the GOP in control of every major state office in Baton Rouge.
Democrats may remain competitive in some parts of the South in 2012. The Democratic Party’s announcement last week that it will hold its national convention in Charlotte, N.C., may help President Obama’s chances in what has become a Southern swing state — and one that he narrowly won in 2008.
But peering farther South, he will face a sea of red that is increasingly deep: Republicans hold every Southern governor’s mansion except in North Carolina and Arkansas, and control most of the state legislative chambers.
Many of the defectors have echoed Bell’s assertion that Democrats have become too liberal.
“The truth is that this change of party is in line with thousands of everyday people who simply feel more comfortable with most of what the Republican Party represents locally and nationally,” Caldwell said in a statement.
Well, uh, a lot of us were trying to warn the American people prior to the 2008 elections just how liberal President Obama’s agenda was and – via extension – Reid’s and Pelosi’s, but not enough people listened and/or believed it, thanks in large part to the MSM’s round the clock, wall to wall, overwhelmingly favorable coverage of Barack Obama. The 2010 elections indicated that the frustrated, much better informed American voter experienced a major (and welcomed) case of “buyer’s remorse” and voted accordingly. Sounds like numerous Democrat politicians in the South have had wake up calls of their own as well.
Doug Mataconis notes that the centrist Dems who are remaining loyal to the Democrat party are facing uphill battles with the Congressional “leadership” for their party – and with funding altogether as the “centrist” DLC prepares to fold. Right now is not a good time to be a centrist Democrat politician, especially in the South.