Tuesday, April 28, 2009


The bombshell of today: Arlen Specter switches political party. This will not only give the Democrats the magic 60 vote Democratic majority (once the other shoe drops, that show is Al Franken), it also bring the per capita jowl of the party substantially higher.
Obviously, the Republican party wasn't too happy, and it fell on hapless RNC Chairman Michael Steele to respond:
Some in the Republican Party are happy about this. I am not. Let's be honest -- Sen. Specter didn't leave the GOP based on principles of any kind. He left to further his personal political interests because he knew that he was going to lose a Republican primary due to his left-wing voting record.

This statement is illogical on many levels. If Specter did have a "left-wing" voting record as Michael Steele claims (left-wing is a very odd word to apply to Arlen Specter) than he did leave the party based on principle, the only way he betrayed his principles was being in the party in the first place. Second, why is it that Steele wouldn't be happy about this? If Specter is an opportunistic left-wing politician, shouldn't the party be glad to have him out?
Steele did get one thing right though, Specter's flip clearly wasn't based on principle, Specter said as much himself. He was oddly forthright in his explanation of why he switched parties. Like Senator Joseph Lieberman, Specter has certain views that are best characterized as centrist, chief among these that it is most important to look out for number 1. This is what ultimately drove Specter out of the part, he was completely forthright about this: he saw the poll, and promptly jumped.
The Republicans brought this one on themselves by running wing-nut Pat Toomey against Specter. What we've seen is the dynamic of "big tent" versus "little tent". The Democratic party is not rigidly orthodox, allowing many politicians who take positions different from, or even hostile to, the supposed Democratic consensus. The party is a coalition of moderates, center liberals and left-liberals. The Republican party on the other hand, is far more disciplines, and deviating too far from the party lines risks a primary challenger. This strategy just blew-up in the face of the Republicans, GOP purists aren't going to like how little clout they'll have as an ideologically pure party.

1 comment:

PNRJ said...

I suppose in some sense Steele is right: Specter left the party because he was going to lose the primary. But he has freely acknowledged this... so the next question is: Why do we care?