Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R., N.J.), a former Democrat, switched parties in January 2020 after opposing his party's effort to impeach President Donald Trump. He was widely mocked and derided by his former colleagues and other liberals at the time, and most experts predicted he would lose reelection in 2020. Van Drew won by 5 percentage points, defeating a member of the disgraced Kennedy dynasty.
"This is an awful thing to do," said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D., N.J.) of Van Drew's decision to switch parties in 2019. "You make a commitment. That doesn't mean you've got to vote every way that the majority or the leadership asks you to vote. Certainly, it means you owe something to the organization who put you where you are."
Pascrell also insinuated that Van Drew's betrayal warranted a violent response. "Do you know how we would have handled this back in Paterson?" the congressman said, referring to his hometown. He added that Van Drew would no longer be welcome to set foot on the Democratic side of the House chamber.
Rep. Steve Cohen (D., Tenn.) said at the time that Van Drew was "making a serious mistake" by switching parties. Disgraced former congresswoman Katie Hill (D., Calif.), who resigned after taking advantage of a staff member, said she was "incredibly disappointed" in Van Drew's decision and hoped he lost the election as a result.
Van Drew's motivation for joining the Republican Party appeared to threaten the mental stability of prominent libs. He argued that the impeachment inquiry was making it hard to tackle more pressing legislative issues in the House. Van Drew also expressed frustration with Democrats for not believing in "American exceptionalism."
This caused liberal filmmaker Rob Reiner, among others, to lose his mind. "The guy's working with the Russians," Reiner said during an unhinged rant on MSNBC. "Are we now saying that we're just going to give ourselves over to the Russians? We beat them in the Cold War, and they're beating us now in the cyber war. And if we don't stand up to them, it could be the end of our democracy. And I'm sorry if you lose your seat, but we've got to stand up for democracy."
Most professional pundits thought Van Drew would lose, primarily because most of them bought into the narrative of a "blue wave" election. "Van Drew's defection to GOP haunts him in tight race," read the headline of a Politico report published last week. The polls showed him trailing Democratic challenger Amy Kennedy, the wife of Patrick Kennedy, the former congressman and son of the late sexual predator Ted Kennedy.
Kennedy cited Van Drew's public pledge of loyalty to Trump as the reason she decided to run. "It felt like he was willing to do or say anything to keep his job," Kennedy said. "There are a lot of people in the district who really respect someone who can be independent-minded, but that's not what that felt like to them."
Democrats ran ads branding the GOP incumbent as "switcher Van Drew" and even mocked him for wearing nice suits. According to Politico, the Democratic Party was "eager to win back a seat they thought they had already seized in 2018" and was seeking "revenge for Van Drew's high-profile defection."
But Republicans got the last laugh. Van Drew prevailed, and the GOP is on track to gain at least six seats in the House in what is shaping up to be an embarrassing failure of an election for Democrats not named Joe Biden.