Barkley, a frequent visitor to Richmond, by way of his Sonny Smith connection -- Smith coached him at Auburn -- is a man who speaks his mind when it suits him. Which is usually. In fact, since his retirement from professional basketball in 2000, he’s been paid to do just that. For his day job Barkley is an outspoken, and sometimes quite humorous, NBA analyst for cable network TNT, when he's not writing books.
Now he is considering another line of work -- politics. Recently Barkley has announced he has become a Democrat. Beyond that he has said he’s weighing the possibility of running for governor in his home state of Alabama.
This USA Today story will tell you more:
“... Alabama’s last Democratic governor, Don Siegelman, said Barkley has become a role model for many people and ‘would make an excellent candidate for high office.’ Siegelman noted that Barkley has the personal wealth to stage a strong campaign.”
“... Barkley told the school board members that poor children don't have a level playing field with wealthier students, because the poor children have to cope with more problems like crime, drugs and teen pregnancy. But he also admonished some black parents and their children.
“‘There are too many black kids and their parents who do not value a good education,’ he said. ‘There are places where a black kid who is a good student and tries to speak correctly, you hear stuff like, 'He's trying to be white.' Well, I say, if that’s true, we need more kids trying to be white.’”
So, the party-switching trend continues. In the 1970s white Southern Democrats, and some others, switched to the Republican Party. If anybody called those guys, “flip-floppers,” I don’t remember it. Their reasons may have varied, somewhat, but ideology was driving much of it. Now, it seems, more elephants are switching party affiliation than donkeys.
In the ‘70s Civil Rights and the Vietnam War were the issues in the air. Today, it’s less clear what issues are causing the restlessness. But three years into the controversial war in Iraq, it is probably at the top of the list.
In Virginia Jim Webb, a former Reagan Republican, is running for the US Senate as a Democrat, trying to unseat the Republican incumbent, George Allen. As the flip-flopper label has served the GOP well in other races, we now see the them trying to stick that same tag on Webb.
Is the public gullible enough to swallow that sort of guff, once again? In 2004 John Kerry seemed to help the Republicans brand him as a flip-flopper. It remains to be seen if it will still have resonance in 2006. After all, who wouldn’t leave a political party if they saw that its leadership had lost their minds?
Webb should be ready to use Barkley’s quip, verbatim, the very next time he hears Allen, or one of the senator’s lathered up propagandists, call him a flip-flopper. Webb's camp might be smart to bring Barkley to Virginia to say it himself.
Also in response to the flip-flopper charge Webb might say something like this: Hell’s bells, those crazy Republicans would have called the captain of the Titanic a “flip-flopper” if he had changed course in time enough to avoid the iceberg.