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10 More Politicians Who Changed Parties

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When longtime Republican senator Arlen Spector announced earlier this week that he was ditching the GOP to become a Democrat, the news set Washington atwitter. Not only did the Republicans lose one of their most visible faces in the Senate, but the Democrats also inched closer to gaining the all-important 60-seat majority. Party changes like this are obviously uncommon, but some surprising people have changed teams at some point in their careers. Here's a look at some well-known politicians who changed their minds:

1. Ronald Reagan

Reagan may be a conservative icon now, but he originally leaned to the left. Reagan's father was liberal, and as a boy, the future president was a great admirer of FDR. When Reagan became president of the Screen Actors Guild in 1947, though, he started to migrate to the right and even testified during the McCarthy hearings as a friendly witness. At the start of the 1950 senatorial race in California, he was still enough of a Democrat to endorse the party's candidate, Helen Douglas. Later in the campaign, though, he changed his mind and threw his support behind the GOP candidate, a young up-and-comer named Richard Nixon. The rest was history.

2. Arlen Spector

Wait, everyone knows Spector changed parties"¦that only happened a few days ago! Not so fast. This week's migration was actually the second time in his career Specter switched parties.

He actually started out as a Democrat, but switched to the GOP in 1965 when he ran for district attorney in Philadelphia. According to Specter, the Democratic machine in Philly was so corrupt at the time that he didn't feel like he could be an effective DA within its confines.

3. Hillary Clinton

The Clintons may arguably be the first family of the Democrats, but former presidential hopeful and current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wasn't always so liberal. Early in her life, she was a Republican, and not just a passive one, either. She campaigned for uber-conservative GOP presidential candidate Barry Goldwater in 1964 and even chaired her local Young Republicans. However, after she left home to attend college at Wellesley, her views gradually shifted to the left, and she eventually joined Eugene McCarthy's presidential campaign.

4. Strom Thurmond

The late senator from South Carolina fashioned a long career out of switching parties. He started out as a Democrat, but at the 1948 Democratic National Convention Thurmond became enraged over the party's attempt to add civil rights elements to its platform. He left the party as part of a group that assembled as the States' Rights Democratic Party, or the Dixiecrats; Thurmond ran for president in 1948 as a Dixiecrat and picked up 39 electoral votes. In 1964, Thurmond, who was by then a senator, switched to the Republican side of the aisle to support GOP presidential nominee Barry Goldwater.

5. Wendell Wilkie

The Republican challenger who FDR drubbed in the 1940 presidential election actually got his start as a Democrat. During the 1930s, though, he decided that he didn't like the way New Deal policies restricted business activities and switched his allegiances. Since Wilkie had effectively snubbed FDR by turning his back on the Democratic Party, the Republican base loved him enough to give him the presidential nomination in 1940.

6. Jesse Helms

Helms, who spent 30 years in the Senate, started out as a Democrat, but in 1970 he grew disgusted over the Civil Rights Act and other progressive policies the party had taken on. Helms jumped to the Republican Party in time to be elected to the Senate in the 1972 election as a GOP candidate.

7. Condoleezza Rice

The former Secretary of State is another conservative hero, but she was actually a Democrat until 1982. Rice said she became a Republican after growing disenchanted with Democratic foreign policies and being reminded by her father that the Democratic Party would not allow him to register to vote during Alabama's Jim Crow days.

8. Charles Barkley

The Round Mound of Rebound has made no secret of his desire to someday run for governor in Alabama. In 2006, Barkley broke up with the GOP to become an independent because he was fed up with the party's politics. Or, as Barkley put it, "I was a Republican until they lost their minds." Quite a shift for a man who once answered his Democrat grandmother's admonition that the Republicans were only for rich people by quipping, "I'm rich."

9. Ben Nighthorse Campbell

Campbell, a Native American legislator from Colorado, served as a Democratic member of the House of Representatives from 1987 to 1993, at which point he jumped to the Senate. In 1995, he dropped the Dems to become a Republican in response to Bill Clinton's financial policies and what he saw as unfair treatment of the West by environmental policies. The change didn't hurt his popularity, though; Campbell spent another 10 years in the Senate as a Republican.

10. Michael Bloomberg

New York's financial guru mayor was a lifelong Democrat until 2001, when he jumped to the GOP to run for mayor. Bloomberg stuck with the party until 2007, when he suddenly announced that he was severing ties with the Republican Party and becoming an independent. In announcing the move, Bloomberg claimed that by becoming an independent he could better help overcome partisan squabbles that had plagued the city.

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10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
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Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.


"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.


"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles


"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole


"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles



"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole


"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles


"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
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Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
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"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."


A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios
"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole
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40 Fun Facts About Sesame Street
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Now in its 47th season, Sesame Street is one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame facts from previous stories and our Amazing Fact Generator.

Sesame Workshop

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2". (Pictured with First Lady Pat Nixon.)

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS' funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmere, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student, Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Thanks to Stacy Conradt, Joe Hennes, Drew Toal, and Chris Higgins for their previous Sesame coverage!

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.


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