Another One Bites The Dust

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

From the WaPo:

Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter will switch his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat and announced today that he will run in 2010 as a Democrat, according to a statement he released this morning.

Specter's decision would give Democrats a 60 seat filibuster proof majority in the Senate assuming Democrat Al Franken is eventually sworn in as the next senator from Minnesota. (Former senator Norm Coleman is appealing Franken's victory in the state Supreme Court.)

"I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary," said Specter in a statement. "I am ready, willing and anxious to take on all comers and have my candidacy for re-election determined in a general election."

He added: "Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans."
On the cynical side, this move was done purely to save his own skin. Republicans would otherwise try to unseat him (many are supporting his rival in 2010, a former Republican Congressman Pat Toomey) as not being pure enough of a conservative despite a fairly conservative 3-decades in Congress. His only chance of survival in an increasingly Democratic state is to switch parties now well ahead of the 2010 election, stave-off serious Democratic opposition, and sail back into the Senate. The WaPo agrees. It's definitely a self-serving, self-preservative move.

The other problem for Democrats with this move is that Dems in the Senate get another Liebercrat. That usually serves to dilute their own messages.

The mantra coming from the Right comes from none other than leading neocon wingnut Bill Kristol:
I wonder if today’s Arlen Specter party switch, this time to the president’s party, won’t end up being bad for President Obama and the Democrats. With the likely seating of Al Franken from Minnesota, Democrats will have 60 seats in the Senate, giving Obama unambiguous governing majorities in both bodies. He’ll be responsible for everything. GOP obstructionism will go away as an issue, and Democratic defections will become the constant worry and story line. This will make it easier for GOP candidates in 2010 to ask to be elected to help restore some checks and balance in Washington -- and, meanwhile, Specter’s party change won’t likely have made much difference in getting key legislation passed or not. So, losing Specter may help produce greater GOP gains in November 2010, and a brighter Republican future.

Plus, now the Democrats have to put up with him.
So see? Losing Specter is a good thing because certainly, the majority party...the party in majority...must certainly be so wrong about governance that the True Believers will soon be back in power. So they can keep Specter because without him, they can all clap louder. Remember how many Democratic "gaffes" were "good for republicans" during the election? Face it, Kristol. Spray painting gold over shit doesnt make it gold. Specter, a 30-year republican veteran, left because of self-preservation and a larger national movement away from hard-Right Wingnuts. This is bad for Republicans.

25 comments:

Bob 12:05 PM  

Glad you wrote this post. I wanted to, but haven’t had the time.

"On the cynical side, this move was done purely to save his own skin."This is partially true, but Specter leaving isn’t that huge a story. The real story is what forced him to leave. Specter admitted that the Republican Primary electorate would not elect him again. Pennsylvania has a closed primary, so those not registered as Republicans cannot vote. Moderates, who would have voted for Specter in the primary, have fled the party leaving only the wing-nuts to vote.

All the crazy R’s are screaming traitor, but really what’s a guy to do? Run in a primary attempting to represent those who clearly want no part of what he has to offer?

It does illustrate who is now in control of the Republican Party and shows their unwillingness to allow someone like Specter to stay in the tent. Specter may have made the move out of self preservation, but really he just followed all of his supporters out of the Republican Party.

Smitty 3:06 PM  

I agree with you Bob; you said it perfectly and succinctly.

It does illustrate who is now in control of the Republican Party and shows their unwillingness to allow someone like Specter to stay in the tent.Olympia Snowe agrees. My favorite passage in her article: "There is no plausible scenario under which Republicans can grow into a majority while shrinking our ideological confines and continuing to retract into a regional party. Ideological purity is not the ticket back to the promised land of governing majorities"

Careful, Olympia. They'll call you a RINO and cast you out too.

Bob 3:30 PM  
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Bob 3:31 PM  

As brought to my attention over at Balloon Juice, Michigan Republicans have been weeding out some “moderates” too.

http://www.sltrib.com/ci_12248321

How f’ed up is your party when the Governor of Utah is too moderate?

Pete 5:15 PM  

Sooo, food for thought...is the end goal ideological purity or a governing majority? Part of me has a problem with sacrificing beliefs and ideals in order to be "accepted".

Really, if the GOP wants to shrink down to be a party of those telling everyone else what to do and how to live and behave, etc. etc., more power to them. I won't have any part of it, but I would respect them for sticking to their principles. If, instead, they're supposed to become more moderate, open, embracing change to gain support, but if it isn't part of their true beliefs, then what's the point? We're already mostly there, but we might as well have one big People's Party. Save for a handful of issues, today's Democratic Party and Republican Party IMHO essentially boil down to the same thing - telling everyone what they want to hear, no matter the issue.

And back to the original article, even after reading and hearing the reasoning, I still don't understand. Basically the guy realized that he was unelectable in his current form, and "changed" so that he *would* be electable. What's the point? Why would you, as a citizen, even want to vote for someone who blatantly switches to whatever [some majority] perceives to want? Wouldn't you rather support someone who obviously believes your ideals, instead of just being whatever is convenient to get elected?

Smitty 8:45 PM  

Part of me has a problem with sacrificing beliefs and ideals in order to be "accepted".The root of all of this, in my mind, is the Rove's prediction of a "permanent Republican Majority." Rove built a political philosophy and movement that was supposed to lead to an endless republican control of Congress. At the time, it was entirely possible, given the pendulum of American politics.

But that vision was ruined when party leaders moved further and further to the right, along with constant messaging that said if you didn't follow them further to the right of where Americans actually are, you couldn't belong to the party any more.

There was a time when Republicans appealed to the center. After all, American political theory and practice dictates that while you court your base, all elections come down to the middle.

So now, the right absolutely does not appeal to the middle. It's a safe statement to make, given Democratic dominance in Congress right now. But the right insists that they lost the last few elections because their message was not pure enough!

That is partially true (fiscal conservatism, things like that). But it is delusional in the face of public sentiment on the Iraq war, torture, Terry Schiavo, and a host of other ideological mandates thrown at an increasingly uneasy "middle." Certainly, in their minds, it couldn't possibly be their message and "core values" that are wrong! It must be because we just didn't clap LOUD ENOUGH!!

So as the party move further to the right, more moderate, middle-appealing Republicans are finding that the party is treating them with hostility. "how could you vote for that...DEMOCRATS voted for that! You're not one of us!!"

So, Republicans like Olympia Snowe are finding it hard to fit in the party they loved, and easier to fit in their former opponents' party because the pendulum has shifted and that party allows for the variable opinions present amongst any collection of human beings.

Just because Specter is calling himself a Dem does not mean he will vote with them 100% of the time (and that will create problems for a Democratic majority, but if that means they have to make compromises on their agenda, that's probably for the better...though I will bitch about it heartily). But his old party doesn't want him because he is impure, and his voters would statistically rather vote for a Dem.

Why would you, as a citizen, even want to vote for someone who blatantly switches to whatever [some majority] perceives to wantHappens lots. I bet he wins.

Sopor 10:15 PM  

One of my facebook friends said on their staus the other day "I think if an elected official switches parties we should be able to re-vote!"

Seriously... if which party this guy "belongs" to has such a HUGE impact on how he is going to vote on issues... then there is something wrong with our political system.

And if I'm reading what you're saying correctly Smitty... you're saying that which party he's a member of isn't going to have that big of an impact... he just doesn't fit in with the Right because they're not accepting of moderates at the moment?

Smitty 7:22 AM  

you're saying that which party he's a member of isn't going to have that big of an impactRight. Specter has voted the party-line plenty, but he has split from the party to vote how he wants to on issues important to him or his constituency. As his constituency shifts, so does his party affiliation, but he's probably going to continue to vote however he feels like voting, and the republicans in the minority will probably get plenty of votes out of him.

B Mac 8:37 AM  

The Republicans celebrating Specter's departure remind me of Detroit Lions' fans who want the team to cut left tackle Jeff Backus because he's a below-average NFL left tackle. When your team is getting its ass kicked regularly, you keep the talent you have, even if it isn't ideal. Why? Because the back-ups are worse. Claiming "we should only start players who could make the Pro-Bowl" ignores the fact that you're limiting your potential starters to the point where you can't field a full team.

The GOP had two choices coming out of the election; moderate, or spread your message and convince the public to share your views. Seems they made their choice (or, rather, Arlen Specter made it for them).

Bob 9:45 AM  

"Why would you, as a citizen, even want to vote for someone who blatantly switches to whatever [some majority] perceives to want?...Wouldn't you rather support someone who obviously believes your ideals, instead of just being whatever is convenient to get elected?"
Why would you as a citizen vote for a person whose ideals are based on party vs. a certain set of positions on each issue?

Specter did not switch his positons to fit the political wind, he changed his party to join the one that fit his positons. If he stayed in the Republican party and moved right to win, he would have been sacrificing his ideals to win.

Bob 9:49 AM  

Also - a Party that sticks to its ideals at all costs and doesn't moderate its postions to fit the general belief systems of the population can be respected for sticking to their ideals and all that, but it will likely be destined to become a permanent minority party or even become a third party.

Mr Furious 10:30 AM  

PEte,

Specter's in the unusual position to be able to point to the last election and the 200,000 Pennsylvania Republican voters who bolted the party and supported Obama and the Dems. It is entirely plausible for him to take that and make an honest case that PA rejected what the GOP has become, yet wants to retain it's incumbent Senator.

Mr Furious 10:32 AM  

I'll add this as well. Specter can make a pretty honest case that he sat right in the middle of the political spectrum, and as both parties shifted rightward, he slipped out of the GOP range and into the Dem's without moving himself or his positions at all.

Mr Furious 10:35 AM  
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Mr Furious 10:36 AM  

Smitty and Bob, both of you have hit on exactly the same theme as this great post I linked to last night:

Most political parties exist to represent some part of public opinion. But today’s GOP drives away any part of the public that doesn’t represent its opinion.

In many ways, IMO, the Republican Party is acting like an apocalyptic cult — a small number of true believers waiting for some Big Cataclysmic Event that’s going to change everything, to their advantage. For that reason, present reality doesn’t interest them, because present reality is just a temporary aberration (which it may be, but not in the way they think). Thus, movement conservatives brush off opinion polls that show their positions to be wildly unpopular. They don’t need to worry about election losses, shrinking party membership, an aging political base, or senior senators who jump ship. They don’t need to change with the times. They’ll be vindicated when the Mother Ship arrives. You’ll see.
They ARE pursuing purity at all costs. Keep going, and they'll be a bigger Libertarian Party.

Mr Furious 10:38 AM  

Smitty and Bob, both of you have hit on exactly the same theme as this great post I linked to last night:

Most political parties exist to represent some part of public opinion. But today’s GOP drives away any part of the public that doesn’t represent its opinion.In many ways, IMO, the Republican Party is acting like an apocalyptic cult — a small number of true believers waiting for some Big Cataclysmic Event that’s going to change everything, to their advantage. For that reason, present reality doesn’t interest them, because present reality is just a temporary aberration (which it may be, but not in the way they think). Thus, movement conservatives brush off opinion polls that show their positions to be wildly unpopular. They don’t need to worry about election losses, shrinking party membership, an aging political base, or senior senators who jump ship. They don’t need to change with the times. They’ll be vindicated when the Mother Ship arrives. You’ll see.Indeed, they ARE pursuing purity at all costs. Keep going, and they'll be a bigger Libertarian Party.

Mr Furious 10:38 AM  

What the fuck is up with the returns? That's supposed to be like three separate paragraphs...

steves 11:58 AM  

Several points:

Personally, I'd like to see a moratorium on the term wingnut...or at least reserve it for the people afraid of black helicopters. I am just as sick of hearing socialist used to describe Obama, so it doesn't have to do with any kind of partisan pet peeve.

It could be that the GOP is moving to the right, but I have heard this before. I think there are many issues that are hard to label, so I question the value of framing the discussion as to where parties are moving. Don't get me wrong, in many ways I am disgusted with the GOP and think they need a serious overhaul, but I don't know if they need to change everything. That is probably a topic for another thread, though.

I was just as surprised to see Specter leave as I was to find out that steroids were being used in MLB. As someone who looks more at positions on issues than party, I don't really care all that much that he left. I have never liked him and wouldn't vote for him no matter what party he is in. While some may argue that the party moved away from him, I think it is just as possible that he has moved away from the right to the left.

Most of the lefties I know either like Specter or don't really mind him. Contrast this with the more right leaning people I know (both personally and on a variety of boards). I have never met one that like dhim all that much. I did a few searches under his name on a few boards and couldn't find a single really positive thing said about him. Obviously, he was popular enough to be elected, but the label RINO seems to fit him well.

If he feels his beliefs are more in line with the Dems, then this move makes sense.

As an aside, I'd love to see the the libertarian leaning conservatives leave the neo cons and social conservatives and team up with the fiscally conservative blue dog dems and form a new party. There is plenty I don't like about the current manifestations of either major party and I think that moving to a single party system (somewhat like we have now) would be a terrible thing for this country.

steves 12:16 PM  

I know it is not the same thing, but I don't recall there being all that much sadness among the dems when Lieberman left. Most seemed to say good riddance.

Bob 12:22 PM  

As a strong D, I actually agree that a oneparty system is not good for the country, but this seems to be where we are headed.

I think the R's need to reform, but not as far as people might think. If they actually lived by the Reagan messaging, (which has NEVER happened) they would be viable.

I wouldn't agree with the smaller Government, less regualtions platform, but at least it is an honest position to take, as long as actually govern based on those positions.

Bob 12:44 PM  

I know it is not the same thing, but I don't recall there being all that much sadness among the dems when Lieberman left. Most seemed to say good riddance.Good point.

I think the only difference is that D's were losing elections when running on the more conservative postions that Lieberman advocates, while the R's could better win on the positons that Specter takes.

steves 12:54 PM  

Bob, that may be true. I don't have all the answers. I doubt the GOP strategists want to lose, so I am sure that there isn't an easy answer. There are plenty traditionally conservative positions that appeal to most people. For instance most polling data shows that gun control is not something that most people want.

I think that the GOP has also done a shitty job of making their point. They have also gone down the wrong road by supporting torture and unprovoked warfare. OTOH, Bush won two elections by appealing to some conservative positions, so I don't know.

Smitty 1:39 PM  

Sorry steves. I will probably continue to use "wongnut" to describe the hard right of a dying party. The part of the party that supports torture, sponsors terry schiavo legislation, gives lou dobbs a voice, thinks Sean Hannity is true and not a muppet, and kicks out or ostracizes Specters and Snowes, and whi insists that it's only because they are not pure enough that they are no longer in charge. They are Wingnuts. Prime example: Michelle Bachmann (R-MN).

All the others I will happily call Republican.

steves 2:32 PM  

I suppose I don't have much use for most of the part you describe. As for kicking out certain people, I have mixed feelings. I don't think party membership requires 100% compliance with the rest of the party, but a certain level of non-compliance would seem to tell me that person should join another party or run as an independent.

This is the problem with a two party system. Many people probably don't fit totally into the mold of either party.

I think it is probably too early to say the GOP is dying, as opposed to the natural ebb and flow of politics.

Bob 2:46 PM  

In reference to Smitty's comments, I will continue to use "right-wingnut" to describe the right-wing freaks in the Republican party, but also use "left-wingnut" to describe the liberal freaks.

This would include left-wingers, like the similar Repubs, who ignore all facts and reality in establishing their belief systems such as peace groups who demand we get out of Iraq without a transition, environmental groups like the Union of Concerned Scientists and The Earth Liberation Front, anti-gun groups who actually believe we can round up all guns, and other left-wingnuts who get way too much attention.

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