This has intrigued me for a long time. Hypothetically, could a president-elect be able to switch political parties once they assume office? I'm aware of the ramifications and backlash they would get from their former party members and colleagues, but is it legally possible to do this?

Like, say that Donald Trump suddenly decided to register as a Democrat tomorrow morning: How would this affect him or any other president once it happens?

EDIT: One thing I know that would certainly help is if there was an elected majority in Congress for the political party a president joins, as opposed to their previous party.

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    $\begingroup$ What is the worldbuilding problem here? It sounds like a political question $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica May 7 at 3:48
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure if it is possible to do in U.S. politic, and want to implement it in my alternate history story. $\endgroup$ – Nathan Hopp May 7 at 3:57
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    $\begingroup$ politics.stackexchange.com/q/16143 $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica May 7 at 3:58
  • $\begingroup$ VTC OT:NAW. This is not a worldbuilding question. it is a current-politics question. Please visit Politics. BTW, the link @L.Dutch provided is the answer to this question on Politics. In other words, it's a duplicate on the correct site. $\endgroup$ – JBH May 7 at 4:02
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    $\begingroup$ Yes. From a constitutional standpoint, president's position is NOT contingent, meaning that no action of sitting president (apart from his/her own resignation) automatically leads to his/her removal from the office. President can be removed through impeachment or 25th amendment invocation - but switching parties can not be a legit reason for either of those processes. $\endgroup$ – Alexander May 7 at 17:13

Short answer is yes. The people vote in a person not a party representative. This is why the parties have their conventions and 'endorse' a candidate - they're saying that they back this candidate as representing them, but it doesn't mean that person is their representative on the ballot, per se.

While this is true in most democracies, there is a very specific exception to this in Australia; In the Federal Senate, people can vote above the line or below the line. If they vote above the line, they're voting for the parties and their choices and order of candidates. If they vote below the line, they're voting for individuals. The thing is, less than 1% of the population in Australia vote below the line on the senate ticket. That means that the party sort of 'own' the seat.

In practice, this only matters if the person is ejected from office. If the person changes party or becomes an independent, they retain their seat. If they resign or are removed through a technicality (like direct benefit from the crown or dual-citizenship) then the party gets to choose a replacement.

In the Legislative Assembly (our lower house, similar to House of Commons or the US Congress) there are documented cases of people who have literally switched parties while in office, but it's by no means common and as said before, there's little that can be done because you're voting for a person, not their party.

  • $\begingroup$ I thought when I voted below the line it still went to the party. It just depended on if that party actually wins the seat or not, and then it goes into some weird distribution. Even then, the prime minister position is help by the party and not the individual, because your voting a local representative and not that actual person who becomes prime minister (unless the PM is in your area). So if the Australian PM suddenly decided to change parties, his own party will likely take the position from him... its not like we voted our current PM in... $\endgroup$ – Shadowzee May 7 at 4:05
  • $\begingroup$ @Shadowzee yeah it's kind of complicated but the understanding I have is that below the line voting applies to the person directly, but isn't an issue because the numbers are so low. I vote below the line always, but I'm definitely in the minority. You're right about the PM too - to my knowledge it's only ever been backbenchers who have swapped parties in the past. $\endgroup$ – Tim B II May 7 at 4:07

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