Arlen Specter, who switched parties to become a Democrat to much fanfare and applause, was rejected by Democratic primary voters today in favor of challenger Joe Sestak. When Specter left the GOP, all we heard for weeks was how inhospitable the Republican Party was to so-called moderates. Well, now that the Democrats have done the same thing to poor Mr. Specter, will we hear the same complaint? Doubt it.
Conservatives are going to rejoice over Specter’s defeat – and they have a right after Specter effectively gave them the finger and jumped ship to save his own hide after angering many of the GOP base with “aisle-crossing” maneuvers. Many tried to maintain that the switch was purely out of principle and the result of an unfair witch-hunt in the GOP against moderates. The truth was always that Specter had one agenda item that surpassed and trumped all others – the continuation of his political career.
Tonight that career came to a screeching halt a little over a year Specter ran to the welcoming arms of President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. They gladly used his crucial vote on health care reform, then declined to support him as it became clearer he was in trouble. Obama could not afford to have another loss pinned on his support, though this one will be anyway.
Joe Sestak has polled better against the Republican Pat Toomey and gives the Democrats a better chance of holding on to the seat. You can argue that it was simply pure pragmatism that drove Democrat voters to choose Sestak over Specter, but I suspect that there’s a simpler explanation – they simply couldn’t trust him. You can’t really blame them, as Specter proved that he stood only for himself and not for any principles or for his constituents.
So long, Arlen Specter. Do you still think switching was worth it? You probably do, but it led to a richly ironic end to a long Senate career.
Image credit: Paul Chaplin, The Patriot-News