Arlen Specter has bailed on the Republican Party. I want to approach this news from three different directions:
1. Swine Flu made the man go crazy
2. Republican's are battling an increasingly conservative party structure that does not leave room for moderates like Specter.
3. Specter is just out to save his political life, this is just a pragmatic switch to stay a senator.
Ok, so the swine flu probably has nothing to do with this, but you cannot count it out, because apparently every news story in the country must include swine flu to be relevant and important. The real debate here is between the last two choices. The real problem for the republican party is that both are bad. In one case, as has been pointed out by many people smarter then me, they are on their way to becoming a regional party with a VERY conservative bent. In the other case, they are so despised at the moment that people feel they cannot get reelected if they have that (R) after their name.
Personally I think both of those answers are at work here. At the base of the matter is Arlen's desire to keep his job. Basic politics at work here. See next paragraph for me ripping him a new one on this front. Intertwined with that is the sad fact that the party that Sen Specter belongs to has been drifting ever more to the right. Arlen was never a uber-conservative, he was a moderate in the Reagan mold. Here is a quote from him regarding his switch: “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.” Clearly he is seeing the winds blow more to the Dems favor and wants to keep his job, still the fact that over 200,000 people switched affiliation should indicate where the Republican party is at right now in Industrial Midwest states like PA.
So this is where I slap Sen. Specter around for switching parties. As a Democrat in a vacuum, I applaud this move; as an non-partisan political observer, this is shameful. People who switch parties just to remain elected are the worst kind of politician. The value their own job so far above any policy priorities that they are willing to sacrifice their values just to stay in Washington. At least with Lieberman, he went independent, Specter just wants the (D) after his name. If he was being true to his roots he would have gone independent. Even with the steady right march of the Republican Party, I am sure that Sen Specter's values are more closely aligned with his old party then his new one. Unfortunately for the Republicans, those values are now associated with not getting elected.
So Arlen....welcome aboard, and shame on you.
Happy New Year
3 months ago