Exhibit 18.12

On Switching Parties

(I haven't done any political posts since the election. Consider this a shameful, one-time revival. I apologize).

Obviously I'm happy with Senator Specter's decision though it's important to note that in practice it won't mean nearly as much as we think as long as Franken isn't seated and some moderate Democrats like, oh, let's say Nebraska's own Ben Nelson, insist on throwing their weight around. Not to mention that fact that the senator already votes blue on a number of key issues and the one issue you might expect him to now come out in favor of--the Employee Free Choice Act--he's already said he will continue to oppose (we'll see).

Which means we might not see Senator Specter sticking around past the election in 2010. There are a whole lot of Pennsylvania Democrats, many of them union members, who will need to vote for guy they've spent decades voting against without any incentive for changing their minds. In other words, the only person happier than Harry Reid today is Ed Rendell who basically came back from lunch to find a senate seat waiting for him. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has said they won't support any primary challenges to Specter but if a popular Democrat like Rendell wants to enter the race, there's nothing they can do about it.

(Rendell's just an example. I doubt he runs now--he's a party-line guy--but there was talk of him before Specter's defection).

Honestly, unless Specter really does move to the left, it probably won't even take that great of a candidate. I don't know anything about Pennsylvania politics--here's how much I don't know: I initially misspelled Pennsylvania there--but it's a pretty safe bet that 100% of people who voted in the last Democratic primary didn't vote for Arlen Specter. Some surely came around in the general election, but against any credible opponent, Specter is going to have to cobble together a majority of voters starting near zero. One would think any well-funded yinzer who supports EFCA would be even money against an 81-year-old ex-Republican who stands on the wrong side of what will likely be the electorate's key issue.

This is more or less always the rub with switching parties which is why it so rarely works, at least for anyone who expects to get reelected (even Jim Jeffords, who would have been a hero for switching control of the senate in 2001, decided against running for re-election as an Independent or a Democrat). It highlights the sad truth of our system of government: for as much as we might like politicians to vote their conscious and do the right thing regardless of party, the intricacies of governance are such that the letter next to a name really can be more important than the name itself. And if the people of Pennsylvania want a 'D,' presumably they'd prefer a capital D to a lowercase one.

Maybe Specter will move to the left. Maybe--and hopefully--the Democrats won't be so quick to purify the party as their competition. Maybe Specter's cancer comes back and none of this matters. But for the moment it looks like this is going to hurt Republicans more than this helps the Democrats. As of 2010, the holder of that seat was either going to be Arlen Specter or some random Democrat and that's still the case today.

As for the Republicans, well, what can you say? This one has to hurt, but anyone dancing on their grave should remember the state of the Democratic party in 2004 and how quickly they bounced back. Still, the fact that a 30-year member of their caucus left because he was going to face yet another primary challenge from a right-wing operative who has no chance of winning the general election...well, it's an issue. I'm no expert, but it seems like they should be taking what they can get at this point instead of shooting everyone in the foot until only Rush Limbaugh and Pat Toomey are left.

At a time when even a state like Iowa seems fairly blase about allowing gay marriage--as if it's the most boring thing in the world when 10 years ago there would have been riots--their rush to force out moderates like Specter is inexplicable.

It comes from a play that what's left of their party would rather ban than see, but it's a lesson they need to learn: The world only spins forward.


Dusty said...

"Yinzer," eh? I don't think you're allowed to use this term.

A. Peterson said...

I did it for you, Dusty. I did it all for you.