April 28, 2009

File Under "Duh"

BREITBART: WASHINGTON (AP) - Veteran Republican Sen. Arlen Specter disclosed plans Tuesday to switch parties, a move intended to boost his chances of winning re-election next year that will also push Democrats closer to a 60-vote filibuster-resistant majority.

"I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans," Specter said in a statement posted on a Web site devoted to Pennsylvania politics and confirmed by his office. Several Senate officials said a formal announcement could come later in the day or Wednesday.

Color this pragmatist concerned. Specter will be tough impossible to beat and he brings seniority and wily skills to the other side. We've lost a thorn but gained a tumor.

UPDATE: Good stuff as you'd imagine at PA H2O dS/dt>0 (keep scrolling). They're running toward the jubilant over there. We will see.

111th Congress Pennsylvania Posted by John Kranz at April 28, 2009 12:57 PM

So now that the Dems have their sixty votes, any harm in asking the Gentlewomen from Maine to change parties as well?

Posted by: AlexC at April 28, 2009 9:17 PM

You're not ever planning on coming back then? Thirty-five Senators brave true, strong, devoted to liberty -- yet unable to do anything?

Don't get me wrong, I understand the emotional argument but I don't think it outweighs pragmatism. Senator Specter was going to be the vote that stopped card check. He, or Voinovich or Snowe or Collins would have no reason to impede things a little bit if they were D's/

Posted by: jk at April 29, 2009 9:57 AM

No reason, that is, other than "no Senator, no matter how loyal he is to his Party, should or would put party loyalty above his duty to the state and nation" as Specter said in his press release.

Pragmatism in the GOP may have kept a few Republican senators in northeastern states but those senators did little to derail Democrat policy goals. We've tried the "compromise" approach through the previous 8 congresses with dismal results. I submit that even pragmatists should endorse the principled approach now on the basis that it MIGHT help to save the American Way, while the moderates - Bush, McCain, Specter, Snowe/Collins - presided over its villification.

One last observation: Specter is "unwilling to have my twenty-nine year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate." What does it say about his precious record that he is perfectly willing to have it judged by the Pennsylvania DEMOCRAT primary electorate?

Posted by: johngalt at April 29, 2009 10:25 AM

James Taranto made my case better than I (what else is new?)

Such an attitude is justifiable only if you think of the Senate as a mere debating society. In the real world of politics, a small but principled minority can get things done only by forming coalitions with other factions on the basis of common interests or partial agreements of principle. In a two-party system, the most expedient way of accomplishing this is within a party. If America were a multiparty parliamentary system, a party with a 30% minority could be hugely influential. In a two-party system, it is sure to be marginal.

The political logic of Specter's party switch is so compelling that his move might have been inevitable. But the GOP would have been far better off had it persuaded him to remain in the fold. Even Toomey would have a better chance of beating an unknown Democrat than Specter next November. Republicans can boast that they have kept their principles. That and 41 votes will buy them a filibuster.

Posted by: jk at April 29, 2009 11:06 AM

I have to call "straw man" on Taranto's argument:

"Even if 2010 turns out to be a big year for the GOP, the likelihood of an 11-seat net gain is vanishingly small. (...) But the GOP would have been far better off had it persuaded him [Specter] to remain in the fold."

And what, this would make their chances of gaining 11 net seats in 2010 any greater? My point above was that Specter was part of the GOP's problem. They may not gain 11 seats but I say they gain more without him than with his Democrat-lite votes tarnishing the brand.

Posted by: johngalt at April 29, 2009 3:44 PM

And I have to call "bovine effluvia" on Specter's own spin. This is a guy who, a mere six weeks ago, said that he chose not to switch parties "because he is a Republican." Now he says: "no Senator, no matter how loyal he is to his Party, should or would put party loyalty above his duty to the state and nation."

(1) No matter how loyal he is to the party? When in the sphincter of Hell could that phrase possibly have been applied to Specter?

(2) Is he trying to tell us that, out of a sense of duty to state and nation, he is switching allegiance to the party that has done more to harm the nation than all of America's enemies in history have succeeded in doing, combined? Does he actually think that anyone not related to him by blood is stupid enough to believe that?

Political expediency - no more, and no less. But past all that, I wish him well, and offer him my congratulations. See what I mean here:


Posted by: Keith at April 29, 2009 5:22 PM

Let us not conflate the [non-]question of whether Senator Specter is a complete git with the question whether this is bad for the GOP.

I think our Keystone State friends at PSH20dS/dt>0 are whistling past the graveyard to think that a Democrat Senator Arlen Specter will somehow be better for liberty than a RINO one. And it looks like most of the ThreeSourcers are joining in.

RINOs cast at least one good vote every session for leadership. Now is a pretty bad time time to be losing seats. But I am glad you all are having a good time.

Posted by: jk at April 29, 2009 5:38 PM

jk: you make a good point, and I appreciate your call for cooler heads to prevail. I'd propose we discuss this in terms of unemotional reason.

(1) Did we lose a filibuster-proof Senate? I tend to think not; my suspicion is that Republican Specter would have voted with the Dems for closure on a lot of issues.

(2) Which of Specter's votes change as a result of his change in party affiliation? I don't think we see a lot here; my sense is that Democrat Specter will vote pretty much like Republican Specter did.

(3) He's already announced his (weak) intention to continue voting against card check and the end of secret ballots on unions. Does he change on this? Future uncertain; try again later.

(4) A Toomey-Specter primary fight would have cost a lot of money for the GOP, and Toomey would have almost certainly have emerged the winner. We've just avoided those costs. With luck, we'll have the opportunity to see a bloody and expensive Specter-Sestak primary on the other side. Money not spent in the primary can be spent in the general, and the presumptive Toomey-Specter fight moves from the primary to the general. The key here is having the best conservative candidate run in the primary.

I understand PA has had a shift in the ratio of Democrats to Republicans in recent years, but I'm not yet convinced that translates into a leftward lurch of the state's electorate - just that the Republicans haven't given them a reason to register in their column. Specter depended on a significant crossover vote in the past; it would be up to the right candidate to energize voters.

I'm no expert on PA politics, and would gladly entertain the thoughts of someone who was...

Posted by: Keith at April 29, 2009 6:57 PM

And I appreciate the optimism! I'll even toss one your way: losing Specter's seniority will give his plum committee assignment to a more Republican Senator.

I suspect we do lose our pal Arlen on card check. That is my biggest worry. As for saving the primary money, dang, you are an optimist! Specter owns that seat in the general up to and well past his death. Getting knocked off in a Democratic primary would be pretty comical, but Toomey's chances against him in a statewide race are lim->0 (you pick the epsilon).

Posted by: jk at April 29, 2009 7:16 PM

Even if jk is more righterer than the rest of us, just think of it as "a tough investment now toward a brighter future for our children."

Posted by: johngalt at April 29, 2009 7:16 PM

While I agree with JK in the voting principle that "party trumps person" as a rule, I have to go with JG on this one. Putting principles aside in an effort to cling to power is exactly what got us in this fix. The Republican brand was damaged by Democrat-like spending. With Republicans like Specter, Snowe and Collins, the filibuster firewall was illusory anyway, as we saw in the stimulus fight. Burnishing the brand at this time without much actual loss, as Keith noted, is worth it to me. I also don't count Toomey out in the general. A lot can happen between now and then.

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at April 30, 2009 3:09 PM | What do you think? [11]