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US Senator Arlen Specter defects from the Republicans to the Democrats.

A quick thought on this rather surprising and unexpected announcement today, which has garnered probably the equivalent political shock down in the US today as when Belinda Stronach showed up with Liberal leader/PM Paul Martin and announced she was crossing the floor to become a Liberal:

Specter’s defection is by no means a guarantee of a “filibuster-proof” Democratic majority of 60 votes as some people have been cheering about, even when Al Franken presumably gets seated soon. There are a fair number of “conservative” Democratic senators in the Senate – some farther right on the political scale then Specter is – particularly the ones representing traditional “red” Republican states (see Ben Nelson of Nebraska as an example). Note too that Specter has said he is not an automatic vote for every piece of legislation the Democrats sponsor, or even for cloture.

What it DOES do however, is allow Democrats to point out to voters how extreme the Republican Party has gotten when a moderate senator like Specter no longer feels he can co-exist in the Republican party:

Indeed, it sends a signal to voters: the Republican Party is home to Limbaugh, Tea Baggers, Palin, right-wing blogs, the Rove/Cheney/Gingrich triumvirate — and no one else. The party that’s been shrinking to generational lows just got even smaller…For three months, the conservative message has been that President Obama, his widespread popularity notwithstanding, is some kind of radical ideologue, far from the American mainstream. Specter’s departure from the GOP sends the exact opposite message. Moderate Republicans are teaming up with Obama, and leaving the party that has “moved far to the right” behind.

I’ve seen where some far-right conservatives are celebrating Specter’s leaving, and hoping that this is the end of liberal Republicanism. They are foolish if they think becoming a regionalized party where a bunch of right-wing whackos now exist is somehow going to become more “mainstream” and more attractive to American voters, not less. Personally. I’m happy too; again, not so much for what Specter brings to the Democrats, as the fact it will help to marginalize the Republican Party from any electoral success for a long time, or as long as they insist on thinking their present course will somehow win them Congressional majorities or Presidential elections.

9 comments to US Senator Arlen Specter defects from the Republicans to the Democrats.

  • I second Mike’s comments. Arlen Specter was not a liberal, but a moderate as most Republicans in the Northeast are moderates like him. In fact at one time, this group dominated the Republicans. It was only when many former Southern Democrats (Dixiecrats) started moving to the Republicans that the party began to swing hard to the right as the South has always been very right wing and whichever party dominated this region tended to contain a strong right wing reactionary element that hated anyone who didn’t share their views.

    And as for the comment about universal health care, what is so bad about the idea of that. Every other industrialized country in the world besides the United States has some form of universal health care. And decisions are made by doctors not bureaucrats and you actually have more freedom as you can see any doctor you wish, not just the ones your insurance company tells you that you can so this garbage that universal health care means less freedom is just that. Our health care is still privately run, just publicy funded. The only difference is when you get treated, the doctor bills the government instead of yourself or your insurance company, but the doctors are not civil servants, they still work in private practice.

  • Kim,

    Turn of Rush Limbaugh, its rotting your brain. Specter will probably win anyway as a Democrat.

    And, I can’t for the life of me see how Al Franken is stealing the election after winning MORE votes and widening his margin as a result of Coleman’s own appeal. Ha ha!

    There’s no loser like a sore loser, eh? Especially one that clearly has never gotten treatment in our system.

    The rules of this forum and the good nature of the host prevent me from being more blunt in how I feel about your idiocy.

  • Kim Blair

    Good riddance to this leftwinger. He is a phony that campaigned as a conservative but then acted as a Democrat when he would win the nomination. Although polls aren’t that reliable, Toomey was polling 2 to 1 over Specter.

    He switched to save his skin because he knew he would lose.

    The frightening thing is that with this switch, and with Franken likely to steal the Minnesota election (due to the Democrats legendary cheating), Americans will likely be saddled with healthcare rationing. The same rationing that has made Canadian healthcare such a cruel heartless system.

    Now where are Canadians going to go for healthcare? 🙁

  • Karem Allen

    I don’t follow the details of the American system but I have a question. Can they recall a rep that crosses the floor ? Can they be forced to have a special election ?

    Just curious as to how they do things there in this regard.

  • Scott, the name Brownback came up during a conversation on CNN … they were talking as if he’s disenchanted with the GOP and the direction it’s gone. Frankly, I don’t buy it either, I think they must have misspoken, or were joking. I note Specter’s flip was the top story on the BBC World Service when I was driving to another part of town tonight, ahead of the swine flu, so this really is a huge story. I agree Specter can’t be counted on to be the 60th vote all the time; but I saw how shocked Wolf Blitzer was on Situation Room and he’s usually unflappable. Bet they were flipping on Fox!

  • JJ

    Good analysis, Scott.

    Specter definitely won’t be an automatic vote for the Dems at all times, but I’m thinking more in terms of issues where the nutty base agitates the GOP to block or filibuster (like with the Sebelius nomination), Specter would probably be a pretty reliable vote in favour of sanity. (In fact he did vote in favour of confirming Sebelius this afternoon.)

    I too am more impressed by what this means about the image of the GOP. Nobody who isn’t crazy or stupid wants to be seen with them. As you point out, what message does that send to the voters? Ha!

  • He may be one of the first to jump, but there have been many others no longer involved in politics (i.e. Lincoln Chaffee, Jim Leach, even most of the Eisenhower family) who supported Obama. Really what you are seeing is a re-alignment. Historically the Democrats were strongest in the South and generally pretty conservative while the Republicans were the more moderate of the two parties. After Johnson brought in the Civil rights Act, Southern Democrats began to drift to the Republicans pulling the party further to the right. Now it seems many of the moderate Republicans, primarily in the Northeast and West Coast are drifting to the Democrats. Still this does marginalize them in many key states. I doubt it will hurt them in states like Alabama, Kansas, or Mississippi, but it sure will in places like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Florida and other important swing states. Still I am happy about it. I doubt Brownback will defect, but Snowe and Collins are certainly possible. After all Maine did go pretty strongly for Obama, although Maine is probably one of the most independent minded states.

  • I justed posted about this at my blog as well, and this really is a bolt from the blue — or in this case, the red. If Specter has jumped the aisle, can Senators Brownback, Collins and Snowe be far behind?

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