Republicans Created Condition for Specter Defection

By Alan Stewart Carl | Related entries in Democrats, Partisan Nonsense, Pennsylvania, Republicans, Senate

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Republicans can call Arlen Specter an opportunist all they like and maybe they’re right. But the fact remains, the senator’s party jump is the direct result of the Republican’s increasing intolerance of moderates within their party.

I understand that Specter is not a model Republican and that a primary challenge is often the price a politician pays for refusing to toe the party line. But usually the main powerbrokers support the incumbent (as happened with Specter in 2004) and the official stays in office. Except, here in 2009, the Republican party is effectively controlled by talk show hosts and hardcore activists who seem to think the path back to power is through purification of the party.

This is not a syndrome exclusive to conservatives. We shouldn’t forget the purging of Joe Lieberman which resulted in the longtime Democrat becoming an Independent. Lucky for Dems, Lieberman chose to continue caucusing with the blue team, even though he did campaign for John McCain. Now with the Democrats on the verge of a 60 vote majority in the Senate (as soon as Al Franken gets his seat, God help us), I think Democratic purists may better understand the usefulness of a big tent. Without Lieberman and other less-than-pure Dems like Evan Bayh, Jim Webb, Ben Nelson, et. al., the Democrats wouldn’t be so close to a filibuster-proof majority.

Arlen Specter most likely defected because he would lose his primary. But that should still tell the Republicans something: if they want to return to power quickly (rather than waiting for the pendulum of history to swing back away from the left), they’d be better off building a broad-based coalition rather than trying to create a pure, but powerless party.


This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 28th, 2009 and is filed under Democrats, Partisan Nonsense, Pennsylvania, Republicans, Senate. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

15 Responses to “Republicans Created Condition for Specter Defection”

  1. Simon Says:

    Alan, no one disputes that Arlen Specter is well within his rights to become a Democrat if that’s what makes him happy. Anyone can leave or join the party as they se fit. The problem is that Arlen Specter is also Senator Specter, and that office comes with certain obligations. If Arlen Specter qua a private individual wants to become a Democrat, he may – but the price he pays is that he must resign his Senate seat and seek reelection as a Democrat. He cannot in good conscience switch horses in mid stream, any more than could Jeffords or Lierberman, as I mentioned at SF and in Justin’s thread earlier. People who do that violate a fundamental trust and perpetuate a fraud on those who voted for them and those who donated time and money to their election. Specter’s sin is that he wants to take it with him – he seems to believe that he is an owner of rather than a fiduciary for the position, power, and status that were entrusted to him.

  2. mike mcEachran Says:

    I watched a great interview today with Britt Hume on Glenn Beck’s show (on the FOX News-fo-hilarity channel). Beck was doing his usual paranoid “there is vast conspiracy by the government against real people” shtick which I find fantastically entertaining, and anyway, Hume said point blank that Republicans need to understand that Specter’s defection is a direct result of the party’s intolrance of moderates. That it would be a lot better to re-elect a Republican that votes independently from the party line than to lose the seat to Democrat altogether, which is what would happen if a hard right Repub got the nomination instead of Specter. Hume said that first and foremost Specter was a survivor. He had survived in politics for forty years, and he survived cancer twice. He said whether or not you agree that he should try to save his job, Specter was pushed out by Republican intolerance, and whether or not Specter defected, the seat would be lost because of it. IMO – Hume’s take is 100% dead on right. And god it was fun to watch the intellectual lilliputian, Beck, try to counter it with “traitor/ consipiracy” babble.

  3. Tillyosu Says:

    I wonder, why do the Democrats need a filibuster proof majority if they’re such a “moderate” party?

    News Flash: Spending $13 trillion dollars in 3 months is NOT moderate.

    Mark my words. When the Democrats get total control they are going to swing hard left…and fast. And the voters are eventually going to punish them for it.

  4. BrainPhartz Says:

    In the end, I felt … O.K. with the news about Arlen Specter.
    But then I remembered … Al Franken, and I remembered why I am sometimes offended by the democratic party: because people like Al Franken associate themselves with it.

    Now I feel sickened again … to think that a supremely arrogant, misguided jerk like Al Franken might be in a position to cast not only “a” vote in the United States Senate, but the 60th vote … God have mercy on us.

  5. BrainPhartz Says:

    In the end, I felt … O.K. with the news about Arlen Specter.
    But then I remembered … Al Franken, and I remembered why I am sometimes offended by the democratic party: because people like Al Franken associate themselves with it.

    Now I feel sickened again … to think that a supremely arrogant, misguided jerk like Al Franken might be in a position to cast not only “a” vote in the United States Senate, but the 60th vote … God have mercy on us.

    Read more: http://circumspective.blogspot.com/

  6. gerryf Says:

    Tily, I know what you are trying to say, but he has not spent 13 trillion in 3 months….his budget plan for 2010 is 3.5 trillion, of which 1.2 trillion will be added to the debt.

    If you believe it is necessary to spend money to prime the economy–as many do–that’s unfortunate, but necessary.

    Besides, while neither you nor I like deficit spending, budget deficits don’t matter. Ask Dick Cheny and Ronald Reagan…they will confirm it.

    You’re talking long term projections that no one can predict with any accuracy. And if the Democrats really increase the deficit by $13 trillion more, it will take them at least 8 years before they eclipse the deficit spending of the Republicans….

    BrainPhartz,

    Why is Al Franken a supremely arrogant, misguided jerk? I’m not saying he isn’t, I’ve never met the man, but you clearly have strong feelings on the subject so perhaps you could provide some reasoning for that.

    Frankly, if it his conduct in the election so far, he has been far more reasonable and less jerky than Coleman who lost the election by every legal definition, but is refusing to allow Minnesota to be represented. Hours after the election, Coleman was demanding that Franken concede before the votes were counted. Now that the votes have been counted, should the supremely humble, wise Coleman follow his own suggestion?

  7. gerryf Says:

    On a side note,

    Doesn’t this really work to the GOP’s advantage?

    I’m not saying it is a conspiracy, but if you are a GOP supporter, and your choice is to run some far right candidate on the GOP ticket, woulnd’t you rather have Specter–a moderate–on the left side of the ticket rather than someone who is far left.

    The GOP is virtually running two candidates…squeezing the Dems out.

    Now, the Democrats are kind of obligated to not run a candidate for the seat, so the GOP gets it both ways–they run a “pure” GOP candidate AND they get an independent minded conservative running for the Democratic seat.

    Heck, if I thought Michael Steele was smart enough, I’d say he planned it this way.

  8. Polimom Says:

    “I remembered why I am sometimes offended by the democratic party: because people like Al Franken associate themselves with it.”

    BrianPhartz — The GOP has its fair share of problematic associations as well. Michelle Bachmann comes to mind…

  9. TerenceC Says:

    gerryf

    That doesn’t make any sense. The “R”‘s are targeting other “R”‘s because they aren’t party purists? In PA Specter may very well have lost the primary but no mater who the “R”‘s put forward they wouldn’t have stood a chance against who the “D”‘s would have run. Specter may have avoided a difficult primary loss, but he’ll have a reasonably difficult primary against the “D” challenger as well.

    The voters in PA were handed a win-win. Either they vote to keep their 30 year incumbent and all the positives that brings, or they bounce him in favor of a much younger “D” challenger who will win. The “R”‘s are out in PA national elections for the foreseeable future. Keep an eye on Texas though – that state may actually be in play for the “D”‘s in 2010 and if that flips it would put the “R”‘s out of business nationally for a long time.

  10. Tillyosu Says:

    “The voters in PA were handed a win-win. Either they vote to keep their 30 year incumbent and all the positives that brings, or they bounce him in favor of a much younger “D” challenger who will win.”

    Not according to Ed Rendell:

    “He’d be unopposed. The Democrats in the Senate would welcome him. We in Pennsylvania would welcome him. He’d be basically unopposed for the Democratic nomination.”

    Everyone knows the party bosses are going to push Sestak and Torsella out. So the voters of Pennsylvania have a choice between a Republican, and a guy who was a Republican like 5 minutes ago.

    My guess? Democrats aren’t going to be very enthused about getting screwed in the primary and having a choice between an (r) and an (R). Many will stay home.

    Meanwhile, Republicans are going to be excited about putting Toomey into office and taking Specter out. Their turnout will be far higher. Also, Specters defection gives Toomey pleeeeeenty of time to tack back to the center. I think he’ll pick up most independents (and probably some democrats…even if they only vote in protest) too.

    I just love when the democrats are so very un-democratic.

  11. gerryf Says:

    I”m with Tilly on this….I think there is a good chance Specter wins as a Democrat, but I am certainly not betting the farm on it. For the Democrats, the ideal scenario was running a left-leaning moderate after some hardcore rightwinger beat up Specter.

  12. TerenceC Says:

    Tilley

    Your red slip is showing – Toomey hasn’t a chance – he’ll get creamed. He’ll do OK in Pennsyltuckey but that isn’t where the people live – only irascible gun toters:) I’m not a fan of Specter either, but the alternative just isn’t a very good politician. Specter could very well have a challenge from a younger Dem no matter what Rendell thinks – Sestack would probably be that guy. I don’t think voters look at Specter as an R or a D – he’s been there so long he’s just
    “the senator” – the power of incumbency.

  13. Alan Stewart Carl Says:

    Simon, as a matter of principle, you have a point. Unfortunately, party-hopping while in office has been going on quite awhile and I’m not sure there are too many instances of the official resigning and then running again. Both parties know such a thing can happen. I don’t remember too many Republicans crying foul when Ben Nighthorse Campbell switched from (D) to (R) in 1995, in the middle of his first term as senator. But I bet a lot of Dems, who are now embracing Specter, called Nighthorse Campbell all sorts of names back then. There is no shortage of hypocrisy in Washington, as you well know.

  14. Simon Says:

    Alan, I was asked about Campbell yesterday. I didn’t say anything about it at the time because I wasn’t blogging at the time (indeed, the term “blog” wasn’t even coined until three years after Campbell ratted). I was fifteen and living four thousand miles away, also. At any rate, I would have cried foul, just as I did when Jeffords bailed and as I did preemptively when Lieberman was rumored to be about to defect, as I’ve said here and at SF.

  15. Alan Stewart Carl Says:

    Simon, I figured you would’ve cried foul. Hope I didn’t imply otherwise. Just saying that I’m not sure your principles are shared by either party — or rather, your principles are shared only when convenient.

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