Tuesday, April 28, 2009


From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Specter's switch puts Dems near filibuster mark

Veteran Republican Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania switched parties Tuesday with a suddenness that seemed to stun the Senate, a moderate's defection that pushed Democrats to within a seat of a 60-vote filibuster-resistant majority with President Barack Obama's key legislative priorities on the horizon.

Specter, 79 and seeking a sixth term in 2010, conceded bluntly that his chances of winning a Pennsylvania Republican primary next year were bleak in a party grown increasingly conservative. But he cast his decision as one of principle, rather than fueled by political ambition as spurned GOP leaders alleged.

"I have found myself increasingly at odds with the Republican philosophy and more in line with the philosophy of the Democratic Party," he said at a news conference. He added, "I am not prepared to have my 29 year record in the United States Senate decided by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate."


After nearly six full terms in the Senate, Specter is one of a handful of moderate Republicans left, a politician of remarkable resilience who has maneuvered successfully to protect his seat at home and his seniority rights in Congress.

More here.

And from the Daily Kos:

Specter's play for political survival

This move is about political survival, and nothing more. Specter's overriding concern is staying in the Senate, and he'll bend whatever conviction is necessary to make that happen. And since it was clear he wasn't going to survive a primary challenge, well, he did what he needed to do. I wouldn't be surprised, if the Dems pick up a good primary challenger to Specter, for the incumbent to suddenly re-find religion on EFCA. It's not as if Specter believes in anything beyond his title and choice parking spot near the Capitol.

More here.

And over at Eschaton, uber blogger Atrios, who lives in Pennsylvania, issues these warnings:

I've lived under the wanktitude of Specter long enough to know that he rarely actually does anything positive. As Harry Reid said to a small group of bloggers last year in Denver, (quote from memory) "Arlen Specter's with us except when we need him."


I hope this works out better than I expect, but 60 nominal Ds doesn't equal 60 votes.

More here and here.

Yeah, this is always exciting whenever it happens, from whichever partisan perspective you have--it's bad exciting when they leave your party, and good exciting when they leave their party. So this is fun news, one way or the other. Like taking a deck of cards and throwing it up in the air to see how it all works out. I'm like, "oooh neat!"

But from my personal perspective, which isn't so much partisan as it is ideological, this doesn't change the game too terribly much at all. As Atrios implies, Specter probably won't vote too terribly differently from how he was voting as a Republican: indeed, as Kos observes, the Pennsylvania Senator's traditionally conservative distaste for organized labor, expressed most recently in his opposition to the pro-labor Employee Free Choice Act, is staying the same despite his party switch; it's reasonable to assume that the only significant difference will be the letter next to his name when he's identifed in news stories.

Indeed, even though this story is being framed in terms of how far the Republicans have moved to the right, which is true enough at face value, my take is that Specter's switch is much better evidence of how far the Democrats have moved away from the left. He's an obvious conservative, but he's fitting right in with the so-called "liberal" party, and they're pleased as punch to have him!

When you get right down to it, after a thirty year hard-hitting political war, the conservatives have won. The political establishment, which includes both major parties, the Washington bureaucracy, and the corporate news media, is, and has been for many years, conservative. The GOP, having completed its life's work, is now irrelevant, consisting of only the most dogmatic political warriors. But the war is over, and like Japanese soldiers hiding out in caves, itching to fight, for decades after they had been defeated, Republican warriors amble on in confusion. Real conservative politics, and real world relevancy, now reside only in the Democratic Party, and smarter Republicans are beginning to realize this.

We are not in a new "liberal" era. We are simply watching the same old conservative era stabilize itself. I expect more GOP defections in the future.