Young Democrats of Harford County

For Democrats of all ages and other like-minded folks in Harford County, Maryland.

Thoughts on Specter the Defector

Posted by trumanesque on April 29, 2009

Senator Arlen Specter’s announcement yesterday that he was switching from the Republican to the Democratic Party was more than some craven political maneuver.  (True, it was that, but I’m saying it was more than that.)  With one stroke, the Republicans’ Senate Caucus lost 33 percent of its moderate voices.  Only Sens. Snowe and Collins from Maine are left, and we’re not sure for how long.

Behind Republican leaders’ “good riddance” posturing, they have to be concerned.  Specter argued that the party has moved further to the right since his election in 1980, and it clearly has.  RNC Chairman Michael Steele can call Specter a left-winger all he wants, but he can’t credibly spin the party’s problems as just “packaging” or “marketing.”  Only when (if) national Republicans take a hard look at their anti-government, socially oppressive message will they recover as a national party instead of just a regional one.  And that won’t happen unless the party’s moderates  rise up–as Specter suggests–and take back the microphone from the party non-leaders, who have zero credibility on anything.  I put these non-leaders into three categories:  Bloviators (Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck); Castaways (Gingrich, Rove, Cheney); and Marionettes (Boehner, Cantor, Steele, McConnell).  In the meantime, only 21 percent of the country identifies as a Republican.  This figure will likely shrink as the non-leaders drive the party further and further to the extreme right.  Their agenda has been proven wrong; it’s also proven unpopular.

But the Specter defection poses challenges for Democrats as well.  Majority Leader Harry Reid is running out of excuses for not getting key legislation passed.  Even if Specter remains fairly independent, most party-switchers do shift their voting patterns, and Specter will have to do some of that to position himself against a Dem primary challenger.  So this is the window of time for the Dems to do some good governing.  If they fall down, even the moribund Republicans will gain more power in 2010, and will use that power to champion a return to the good ol’ days of bad government under the Bush administration and the Gingrich/Delay Congresses.  The best thing recommending Arlen Specter as a Democratic Senator is that he was there for those times, and he doesn’t want to go back either.


2 Responses to “Thoughts on Specter the Defector”

  1. This cynical, self-serving move had absolutely nothing to do with values, policy, or any high-minded thinking of any kind- though President Obama surely would like for you to think that.

    Everybody knows he did it because he was down 21% in the polls leading-up to the GOP primary for his seat, he already admitted as such- Joey Pluggs made a deal with him. The sad truth is that this mediocre hack has spent three decades in the Senate, while accomplishing very little.

    And Barack and him have a lot in common- as unprincipled political opportunists, I’m sure they’ll get along just great- Just a little over a month ago, the Specter said in an interview that he wouldn’t switch parties due to the importance of checks and balances. And back in 2001, Sen. Arlen Specter, then a Republican, proposed a rule forbidding party switches… he was upset when Vt Sen. Jim Jeffords’ left the GOP to become an independent.

    Who knows what the truth is with this guy, you’ll never get it from him.

    With all due respect, Senator- don’t let the door hit your butt on the way out. Nobody on our side’s going to miss you.

    • trumanesque said

      Thanks RRR,

      I don’t disagree with you on Specter’s cynicism and certainly don’t blame you for feeling that way. God knows plenty of former Dems, including some in Harford County, have switched parties for the same unprincipled reasons. The voters of Pennsylvania will have to decide if they trust Specter, and whether any loss of trust will result in a vote for someone else.

      But I think there’s more to this than the old “Politician Makes Political Move” headline. Specter had a belief system and a voting record that was not sufficiently “conservative” for many Club-for-Growth interests, and so they drove him out. The seat would have gone to a Democrat anyway after 2010. We’ve seen this movie before: CFG runs farther-right candidate against moderate incumbent Republican; CFG candidate wins primary or weakens incumbent; Democrat wins general; Republicans lose power. That’s exactly what happened to Wayne Gilchrest in MD, and to others around the country. Specter just speeded up the process.

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