Arlen Specter Jumps The Fence To Save His Miserable Career
Not much will change
By now you know-- if just from the headline-- that Republican Senator Arlen Specter is switching his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat. He had no choice if he wanted to run for the Senate again since the severely shrunken Pennsylvania Republican Party has virtually no more moderates or even mainstream conservatives, just radical right haters and bigots. In his announcement, Specter made it clear he would just be changing party affiliation, not his Republican mindset:
My change in party affiliation does not mean that I will be a party-line voter any more for the Democrats that I have been for the Republicans. Unlike Senator Jeffords’ switch which changed party control, I will not be an automatic 60th vote for cloture. For example, my position on Employees Free Choice (Card Check) will not change.
The Inside the Beltway Democratic Establishment was overjoyed-- as were hard core rightists in the GOP, like Gingrich and Limbaugh, who suggested Collins, Snowe and McCain join him-- but aside from caucusing with the Democrats, this is probably better news for the Bayh anti-Obama Bloc than for actual Democrats who believe in the values and principles of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.
Over in crazyland, where their only regret is that Cheney wasn't their candidate last year instead of McCain, they're all excited about Toomey's clear shot at the now worthless Republican nomination. On the other hand, I wonder if this could help David Frum decide on suicide.
Although this will be a blow to rightists-- when Franken is finally seated Democrats will now have at least a theoretical filibuster-proof majority-- it won't do much for progressives. Remember, as awful as Ben Nelson (NE), Mary Landrieu (LA) and Blanche Lincoln (AR) have been on core issues-- lately joined by reactionary freshmen Kay Hagen (NC), Mark Begich (AK) and Michael Bennet (CO)-- all of them, except Nelson, are significantly better than Specter. This year Nelson and Specter has each scored a 33.33 on the progressive scale when it comes to tough partisan votes that split the parties. And when it comes to selling out to vested interests, few members of the Senate are as corrupt as Specter. For example, the only current members of the Senate who have taken more legalized bribe money from the finance/insurance/real estate sector than Specter ($5,753,310) are former presidential candidates McCain ($32,423,813), Kerry ($19,196,427), Dodd ($13,238,806) plus egregiously corrupt handmaidens of the banksters like Schumer ($12,834,746) and Lieberman ($9,981,924). Specter even beat out the most ethicless Republican in the Senate, Miss McConnell ($5,013,778). Specter is still likely to play up to Pennsylvania conservatives but this still looks bad to ordinary news consumers who will just be thinking that the Republican Party is falling apart and has moved so far to the right that they can't even hold on to mainstream conservatives like Specter. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), another mainstream conservative being pressured by the extreme right, isn't happy: "...[P]olitical diversity makes a party stronger and ultimately we are heading to having the smallest political tent in history for any political party the way things are unfolding.” Yep, it's pretty much the Limbaugh/Secession Party now-- and that is one really small, stinky tent.
Meanwhile Republican senators (not far right fanatic Jim DeMint) who had donated money to Specter's re-election campaign-- like Alexander and Corker of Tennessee-- are asking for refunds. No doubt partisans like Reid will make good the dough. They've already promised Specter to squelch any attempts by a real Democrat to primary him and Reid has stupidly guaranteed him all sorts of seniority enticements, even though Specter was already showing himself to be an unprincipled hack by bragging how he would vote against key Obama initiatives and nominations.
Even Lindsey Graham-- safe from the wrath of South Carolina teabaggers for another 5 years-- blamed the extreme right wing loons (like his SC colleague, perhaps?) for the way the GOP is shrinking into a small, narrowly ideological and regional party. "I don't want to be a member of the Club for Growth,” he wept. “I want to be a member of a vibrant national Republican party that can attract people from all corners of the country-- and we can govern the country from a center-right perspective. As Republicans we got a problem.” Yeah, but they decided to roll the dice on Limbaugh. Soon their vote will be exactly equal to his market share.