With polls showing a crushing primary defeat at the hands of challenger Pat Toomey, Arlen Specter, Senator from Pennsylvania, today announced he would switch parties and run for reelection in 2010 as a Democrat. Specter whined that the Republican party had become too conservative for him and he now found his “political philosophy” more in line with the Democrats.
Be assured of this – his “political philosophy” had nothing to do with the switch. It is a pure act of political survivalism, in effect selling one’s soul to achieve a momentary political benefit. As Ed Morrissey notes, if Specter complains that the Republican tent wasn’t big enough for him, it’s merely because there’s no space for someone interested in representing no principle except themselves.
It’s almost laughable that little more than a month ago, Sen. Specter was bashing Obama’s spending and assuring everyone he wouldn’t switch parties, even going so far as to call each of the 41 Republican Senators a national asset against one-party rule. Those words ring ever so hollow now, and I wonder if Democrats, as pleased as they must be to be one Senator closer to a filibuster-proof majority, shouldn’t be more than a little wary of a man so willing to distastefully change his stripes at the slightest change in the political winds.
To be sure, Specter has angered many over the years with a backward view of supposed bipartisanship that in the end just seemed to screw over Republican and conservative interests, but the final straw was his vote, one of the Republican three out of all of Congress, for the behemoth stimulus package whose massive and irresponsible spending has yet to provide a jolt to the economy. Many are glad to see him go, and there’s increasing speculation that other Senators, such as Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, and even Lindsey Graham, might follow suit. RNC chair Michael Steele, for his part, blasted Specter as “flipping the bird” to the many Republicans who supported him against strong criticism and now looked forward to defeating him. As an aside, it seems Sen. Specter didn’t even have the class to inform the RNC of his decision.
Take whatever extrapolation of the state of the Republicans and Democrats you want to make out of the equation – this move boils down to one man’s desire to hold onto political power. When his internal polling showed he couldn’t do that as a Republican, Specter made the “painful” decision to switch his political allegiance to set up a seemingly assured general election victory. In the process he completed the final destruction of any illusions one might ever have of the existence of any core set of beliefs in Senator Specter’s political philosophy save one – first, win. Enjoy your new caucus member, Democrats, and hope he treats you better than he treated his friends and supporters.