Senator Jim Jeffords Died Today. Watch the Moving Speech He Gave Defecting From the GOP.

<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/civilrights/2316182823/in/photolist-4wF3sB-aQts8i-aQtuWe-aQtrnB-aQtpXP-aQttSH-aQtqr8-aQtsxR-aQtpuK-aYjxSF-tBY21-3zLjWZ-62WiXH-fy7Wyv-h5QuV-7bd2E2-pGs5-bvgQbW-DCzk-zbQxa-byngKw-672fec-8p5JoW-uk9Sn-9A9hxH-7mEKzF-8NYmGe-cCnQ9d-4uKr1N-demAH5-7NQVzh-ekmY9r-6QnVnv-ow365o">civilrights</a>/Flickr

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Former Senator James Jeffords, who represented Vermont in Washington for 32 years, died Monday at the age of 80. He made history when, five months after George W. Bush was inaugurated with a deadlocked Senate in 2001, he left the GOP to become an independent and caucus with the Democrats, thereby handing Dems control of the upper chamber. He did it because “more and more” he found he could not “support the president’s agenda.” The GOP was no longer the party he grew up in. “Given the changing nature of the national party, it has become a struggle for our leaders to deal with me and for me to deal with them.”

This was before the tea party, before Guantanamo, before Abu Ghraib, before so much of what we now think of when we think of Republican extremism.

Here is the speech he gave announcing his defection, on May 24, 2001. It’s a reminder that the GOP didn’t just up and start losing its marbles after Obama’s election. It had been dropping them one by one for years.

 

 

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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