Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Specter Joins Democrats; Senate Count May Reach 60

If the defection of Arlen Specter, from the Republicans to the Democrats, carries any special significance, it is merely that it shows the utter collapse of the Republicans in the wake of Obama's victory.

It would be a mistake to think that Specter switching aisles will somehow give Obama the 60th vote which he needs to avoid a filibuster.

Mr. Specter acknowledged that the surprise decision was driven by his intense desire to win a sixth term next year. It came after he and his political advisers concluded over the weekend that he could not win a Republican primary against a conservative challenger, particularly in light of his vote for the president’s economic stimulus package.

“I am not prepared to have my 29-year record in the United States Senate decided by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate — not prepared to have that record decided by that jury,” said Mr. Specter, 79, a moderate who has long been known for breaking with his party.

John Cornyn of Texas, who heads the party’s campaign arm, called it a naked act of “political self-preservation,” and I would have to say that I am largely in agreement with that assessment.

It's great for Obama that Specter is joining Colin Powell and Scott McClellan and all the other Republicans who have thrown their hat into his ring, but it would be foolish not to see that Specter is reacting to the fact that the Republican party have veered so far to the right that they are simply no longer a viable political movement.

His views on many matters remain essentially unchanged, which is why it would be the height of folly to regard him as an automatic sixtieth vote on the Democrat side.

However, there will obviously be some pressure for him to do so.
Mr. Specter said he would not be an automatic Democratic vote, though he will be pulled in that direction since he now faces the prospect of running in a Democratic primary.
And Obama has, as one would expect, offered his full support to Specter:

Mr. Specter said he had received commitments from Mr. Obama and Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, to support him in any primary, backing intended to deter Democratic challengers. Mr. Obama is scheduled to endorse Mr. Specter on Wednesday morning at a joint appearance.

Administration officials said Mr. Obama was handed a note from an aide at 10:25 a.m. Tuesday in his daily economic briefing. The note, said a senior administration official, read, “Specter is announcing he is changing parties.” Seven minutes later, Mr. Obama reached Mr. Specter by telephone.

In a brief conversation, the president said, “You have my full support,” said the official, who heard the phone call. The president added that Democrats were “thrilled to have you.”

It was the Republican party's refusal to vote for the stimulus package which, it is said, drove Specter into the arms of the Democrats. The Republicans, the party of NO, really do appear to put themselves before the greater good for the country, and Specter simply found that - because he had decided to put country before party - that he could not guarantee that he could withstand a primary challenge from a Republican furious because he had broken ranks.
Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee, did not mince words, saying Mr. Specter “left to further his personal political interests because he knew that he was going to lose a Republican primary due to his left-wing voting record.”
Interestingly, Steele is quite right when he states this. That is the very reason that Arlen Specter is breaking ranks and that is why I would be reticent about the Democrats assuming that they have the automatic 60th vote which they need to avoid filibuster.

However, the Republicans would be fools not to realise the truth spoken by Senator Olympia J. Snowe of Maine - a Republican who also supported the administration’s economic stimulus plan - that the current Republican party are in danger of "having the smallest political tent in history.”

Only 21% of Americans now identify themselves as Republicans, an astonishingly low number, indeed, the lowest number since 1983.

The Republicans, headed by Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Michael Steele and the other loons of the party, are simply racing towards the political wilderness, further isolating themselves from independents.

It's the car crash that we all predicted. But, although the Democrats can smile inwardly at the self destruction of the Republicans, they still need to beware thinking that Specter has become one of them.

He has not. He is, as Steele stated, simply looking after his own back. This is not a conversion to Obama's side of the argument, it is more an indication of the fact that the Republicans no longer have one.


I am pleased to see that Rachel Maddow shares my cynicism.


James DeMint argues that the Republicans are now going to run on a "Freedom" agenda.

You've got to laugh. They are now actually attempting to turn Bush's mangled rhetoric into a coherent political philosophy.


Quote of the day:
Jonathan Chait:

"When a politician switches parties, it’s customary for the party he’s abandoned to denounce him as an unprincipled hack, and the party he’s joined to praise him as a brave convert who’s genuinely seen the light. But I think it’s pretty clear that Specter is an unprincipled hack."
But now he is our unprincipled hack.

Hat Tip to Booman's Tribune.

Click title for full article.

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