Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I Shall Survive

Arlen Specter is one of the worst, most soul-less, most belief-free individuals in politics. The moment most vividly illustrating what Specter is: prior to the vote on the Military Commissions Act of 2006, he went to the floor of the Senate and said what the bill "seeks to do is set back basic rights by some 900 years" and is "patently unconstitutional on its face." He then proceeded to vote YES on the bill's passage.
This is the essential essence of Arlen. Arlen Specter, the newest member of the Democratic Party in the Senate. Sen. Arlen Specter To Switch Parties; Could Give Democrats Filibuster-Proof Congressional Majority.

As Glenn Greenwald (quoted above) says of Specter, What Specter's switch says about him, the Democrats and our political spectrum:
The idea that Specter is a "liberal" Republican or even a "moderate" reflects how far to the Right both the GOP and our overall political spectrum has shifted.

Consider Specter’s most significant votes over the last eight years, ones cast in favor of such definitive right-wing measures as: the war on Iraq, the Military Commissions Act, Patriot Act renewal, confirmation of virtually every controversial Bush appointee, retroactive telecom immunity, warrantless eavesdropping expansions, and Bush tax cuts (several times). Time and again during the Bush era, Specter stood with Republicans on the most controversial and consequential issues.

And let's not forget that Arlen Specter is the man who started the whole US Attorney mess by changing the statutory approval process, since was responsible for the change in the law that permitted the replacement of the US Attorneys without Senate confirmation. So, he's hardly Joseph of the Amazing Dreamcoat for Democrats.

When my husband called to tell me about Specter's switch, I told him that I may have been one of the first to predict it. In the beginning of January, during the contentious Holder confirmation hearings, I said, in Puff the Magic Dragon:

Of course, Specter will perform his dragon routine, creating a bunch of fake noise about Holder to please the conservatives, then end up doing nothing. If he follows his usual routine, he'll even end up voting to confirm him, when all is said & done [which he in fact did do].

Specter has long played the role of conservative toady in disguise as a moderate. I'm sure he began his career (long, long ago) as a moderate (fiscally conservative, social issues moderate), which played well with the Southeastern Pennsylvania electorate. With the rise of Reagan, then Bush, the GOP required fealty to its brand of conservative orthodoxy, and Specter complied. The result has been a mixed bag for him. He has alienated his true constituency, the moderate Republicans (and even some Democrats) who live in SE Pennsylvania, yet he is viewed with skepticism by the ultra conservatives, who don't believe for a minute that he's a true believer. And for them, merely following the party line is insufficient. You must be a true convert. So, as much as he scrapes and bows for the, Specter will always be another McCain to them -- someone you just can't trust.

He had a tough primary race during his last re-election campaign and this one may prove even harder.

This was shortly after Chris Matthews finally decided not to enter the race to challenge Arlen. After noting the number of potential Democrats who were voicing interest in the race, I then added:

Gee, maybe Specter will join that list, switching back to the Democratic Party, from whence he came. Now, that sure would make things interesting.

Of course, many others considered that option more recently, as it became increasingly clear that Specter would have a seemingly insurmountable primary contest, especially after the Pat Toomey jumped into the race against him on the GOP side. Dick Polman's piece on why Specter should switch teams in March was delightfully on target, in Arlen Specter's route to survival.

So, besides providing lots of fodder for the media (and bloggers), what does it all mean?

As Nate Silver of 538 put it, Specter's Switch More Insult Than Injury to GOP:
This strikes me as being bad news for the Republican Party more than it is good news for the Democrats.
Closer to home, Booman Tribune describes the Specter move, Thoughts on Specter:
We Democrats here in Pennsylvania know Arlen Specter's record better than anyone and you'll be hearing endless reiterations of his many sins over the next two years. I don't need to do that now. Suffice to say that most progressives in this state find Specter to be enormously frustrating. We do not dispute that he is what passes these days for a moderate Republican. We know that he has a good record on labor issues and that he is officially pro-choice. I know high level people in the teacher's unions that intended to re-register as Republicans to vote for him in the primary and then re-register as Democrats to vote against him in the general. Specter is not hated or despised by most people, but he isn't liked or respected either.

We were hoping to beat him in the 2010 election, not be asked to support him. I suspect most activists and progressives will simply refuse to work for his reelection and we'll probably get organized in the Netroots to do the best job we can financing an alternative in the primary."
On the other hand, Specter has been pretty popular in this state and I know many Democrats (and former Republicans) who are pretty happy about the change. As Steven Reynolds of All Spin Zone said, Snarlin’ Arlen Crossing From the Dark Side:
I understand Mr. Specter has promised to give back political contributions from supporters if they do not agree with his decision. Of the people I know who have given him money, I know of many who will be cheering this move. Yes, even some in my own household will be cheering.
In the end, I think he'll end up going back to being moderate Arlen, freed from the necessity of having to please the guns & Christ crowd. In that vein, I fully expect that, despite his protestations to the contrary, that he'll vote for the Employees Free Choice (Card Check), or at least vote for cloture. Please. This is Arlen Specter we are talking about. As I've noted many times before, he hasn't been called Chameleon, The Manchurian Senator, A Gutless Republican Worm and Wafflin' Arlen for nothing.

Quoting Booman Tribune's 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.

And for the last word on this (at least for now), is Chris Matthews, who delivered a devastating analysis on Countdown:

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