After then-actor Ronald Reagan was fired by GE as host of CBS’ “General Electric Theater” in 1962 at the behest of the Kennedy administration, the president-to-be famously switched parties, becoming a Republican.
“I didn’t leave the Democratic Party. The party left me,” said Reagan, who had been critical of the administration in some speeches around the country. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy had made Reagan’s ouster the price GE had to “pay to play” on government contracts, according to son Michael Reagan in a 2011 essay for Investor’s Business Daily.
Fast-forward nearly 60 years to last week, when John Lee, the mayor of North Las Vegas, Nevada, echoed Reagan in announcing his exit from the Democratic Party.
A separate city from its bigger neighbor to its south, North Las Vegas is the fourth-largest city in Nevada. It’s not every day that the mayor of a city of more than 241,000 people switches parties.
Mr. Lee follows in the footsteps of West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, who joined the GOP in August 2017, and Congressman Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, who did so in December 2019.
In what should be the political equivalent of the canary in the coal mine for Democrats, Mr. Lee blamed the party’s leftward lurch for his departure. But the Nevada mayor had far more reason ideologically than Reagan ever had to jump ship on the Democratic Party, which today is light years to the left of where it was in 1962.
The last straw, he said, was the state party’s takeover by what he called avowed socialists. Nevada Democrats “had an election for leadership, and four of the five people were card-carrying members of the Socialist Party,” Mr. Lee said in an April 6 Fox News Channel interview.
“It’s not the party I grew up with 25 years ago in this environment, and it’s not the party I can stand with anymore,” Mr. Lee said.
He invoked Reagan and former President Trump, who was a registered Democrat from 2001 to 2009. “I’ve seen firsthand how the Democrat Party has changed — radically, and not for the better,” he wrote.
“They’ve embraced a socialist, extremist agenda that is not the party of JFK,” wrote Mr. Lee, 65, mayor since July 2013. “Their ideas hurt working-class families, restrict freedom, and extinguish opportunity for millions of Americans — particularly working-class minorities who deserve the chance to give their families a better life.”
By contrast, he said, the Republican Party under Mr. Trump had become “a working-class party of opportunity, freedom, and hope.”
Mr. Lee, up for reelection next year, urged other disenchanted Democrats to follow his lead to more a hospitable ideological home in the GOP.
Sen. Joe Manchin, West Virginia Democrat, for one, would do well to heed that invitation.
Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.