Senator Arlen Specter's announcement Tuesday that he would switch from the Republican to the Democratic party came as a surprise to many.
But party changes are nothing new in our democracy. Even Arlen Specter began his career as a registered Democrat while running on the Republican ticket for Pennsylvania District Attorney in 1965. Politicians have played musical chairs with party registration since the formation of the U.S. government. One of the biggest switches happened in the early nineteenth century, when United States Federalist Party members joined the United States Democratic-Republican Party. The Democratic-Republican Party clearly doesn't exist any more, and many other re-affiliations occurred after its dissolution.
As you'll see in the slideshow below, many well-known politicians have switched parties while serving in the public arena. And there are some famous public servants, like Hillary Clinton and CIA Director Leon Panetta, who changed their affiliations early in life. (Both Clinton and Panetta were Republicans. Clinton even worked for conservative Barry Goldwater during his 1964 presidential campaign.) Scroll through to learn more: