“When I heard Specter switched parties, I thought he became a Republican.” – attributed to Jason Roe, GOP strategist.
I have long been an admirer of Arlen Specter, the senior senator from Pennsylvania. He and Patrick Leahy, both on the Senate Judiciary Committee, are among my favorite senators. They both seem reasonably moderate, very intelligent, and I could listen to them both speak for hours. 90% of the time, they seem to “get it”, which is more than I can say for the rest of Congress.
Recently, Specter announced that he was joining the Democratic party, because, as he put it, he “felt the Republican Party had moved too far to the right”. Some say he didn’t think he could be re-elected as a Republican; I think he made the right decision. The Republican brand has been so weakened and damaged over the past eight years that anybody who’s left in the Republican party (no pun intended!) leans far more politically to the right than they used to. Would they elect someone like Arlen Specter?
In many ways I disagree with our highly dichotomous system of party affiliation. It seems that – in Washington D.C. – you’re either a Republican or you’re a Democrat. There’s no label for “moderate” or “centrist”. I know that, as the political winds shift, my personal label might change despite my views staying roughly the same, so I can certainly identify with his perspective.
There are concerns that he’s providing the Democrats with a 60-vote unblockable majority. I’m less worried about that. I don’t think he’s a party-line voter, and, when push comes to shove, I don’t think he’d vote with the bloc on important issues if he disagreed with them. (Still, I dislike any party having that many votes.)
In summary, I’m not sure this is really going to change anything; but I do think it’s interesting to watch.