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There should be a penalty for changing sides

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By John Whitlock

Where do you stand on officeholders who switch parties?

For me, these people should be forced to sit out a year.

When a 19-year-old college basketball player decides it would help his career to transfer to another school, there are all sorts of penalties including the possibility of sitting out a year.

But if a politician decides it will advance (or continue) a career, they are allowed to turn their backs on the voters who put them in office and the party platform they agreed to support.

Why should we expect more from a college sports player than we do from our elected officials?

An officeholder isn’t a slave to party dogma. It’s the duty of each representative to vote their own conscience.

Last week, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who has served in the U.S. Senate since 1980, announced he would change his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat.

In recent weeks, Specter had come under fire by some Republicans for his support of President Barrack Obama’s stimulus package.

Many GOP stalwarts saw the stimulus bill as a line in the sand and appeared to resent Specter’s support.

Specter was an unusual case in the GOP. He is pro-choice and his views on immigration are more in line with the Democratic Party.

But he opposes gun control and supports traditional marriage, major planks in the Republican platform.

As late as March, Specter declared himself a Republican.

“To eliminate any doubt, I am a Republican and I am running for re-election in 2010 as a Republican on the Republican ticket,” he said in a statement released to Washington media.

I suppose a lot has changed in a few weeks.

With Specter’s defection, the Democrats will mostly likely have a filibuster-proof majority when Al Franken is seated.

But defections shouldn’t be treated lightly. Under a deal struck with Democratic Party leaders, Specter will retain his seniority and will apparently receive preferred treatment when picking committee chairmanships.

I will give Specter credit for one thing – he has agreed to return any campaign contribution made to him before the change.

Whether a defection creates more Democrats or more Republicans, it’s a practice that should have a lot of strings attached.

There are many people who vote strictly along party lines. For those people, it must feel like a betrayal.

If we punish a college kid for changing teams, why shouldn’t we demand at least as much loyalty from our politicians?

•••••

Going around the streets of Owenton, you’ll likely see a few new additions.

The alumni of Leadership Owen County is once again living up to its name and taking the lead in downtown beautification.

Using donated whiskey barrels, the Leadership group will be planting flowers, courtesy of the Sunshine Grow Shop, along the streets of Owenton.

As the seasons change, the Leadership group will also change the decorations.

It’s great that this group is taking on this duty for the betterment of the entire community. I’ve seen a lot of civic groups that just talk a good game, but this is one that will stay exciting and vital to the community for a long time.