Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Specter Leaves Party In Disarray

Arlen Specter, you scoundrel! How could you?

That rumble in Washington today was the ground more than shifting under the GOP, but sidewalks buckling and children being swallowed by the Earth. Sen. Specter is leaving the Republican party for hopefully greener senatorial pastures on the left. To begin, nothing comes as a surprise in D.C. Speculation of Specter switching parties had been rumored more as a highly implausible last ditch effort to retain his precarious seat in the Senate, but never seriously contemplated one bit. Its execution was swift, calculated and so shocking that Republican ire has yet to materialize commensurate with the blow Specter dealt. The venerable National Review, as of 5:30 p.m. pacific time today, has very little analysis of the news except for a rambling, seemingly hurting post from David Freddoso.

It's true, Democrats inherit a moderate conservative who, if he wins the nomination and defeats his Republican challenger, will not reflect the views of a majority of blue state Pennsylvanians. His filibuster-proof 60th vote is compelling, though. (Salon's Glenn Greenwald has a good explaination of what Specter's move means) President Obama supports Specter's move and Senate Leader Harry Reid restored his 29-year seniority in the Senate. Ostensibly, Specter will caucus with Democrats when that 60th vote is needed at all times for such support. It will also allow Specter, who had Hodgkin's disease and has indicated he wants to remain in the Senate to push through health care legislation, to honestly vote with Democrats on any end-of-the-year legislation the Administration says it will offer.

Assuredly, Specter's move rattles what it means to be a Republican legislator post-George W. Bush. To his credit, Specter was unequivocal about his intention to switch party affiliation. The polls said he could not beat the anti-tax crusader Pat Toomey in the GOP primary so he went to the other side. What it means in the long run is either the party has a crude, long-term plan to rid itself of any ideology other than the far right or the party is in the process of true disintegration. Specter's move shows that a Republican of any other persuasion but Christian, far right and anti-abortion can retain or win a seat. How can a far right, anti-tax maven like Toomey possibly win a general election in Pennsylvania? He can't and the same dilemma will follow Republicans across the country until the party can figure out what it can in Obama's America, but that seems a bit away judging by some of their comments.

Rush Limbaugh waved off Specter's move by insisting he should take Sen. John McCain with him. You remember McCain, right? He was the party's choice for president just five months ago and the GOP mouthpiece wants him out. He also insinuated deposing Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback because he voted today for his own state's nominee for secretary of health and human services. If Republicans don't want a dyed-in-the-wool righty like Brownback who exactly do they want?

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