And Arlen Makes 60

28 Apr

The man conservatives hated and labeled a RINO will now enjoy being hated by liberals and his new “DINO” label. Arlen Specter switched to the Democratic Party today, and there are many reasons for it, and ramifications arising out of it.

Firstly, the moderate Republican is a critically endangered species. This is, in my estimation, a crying shame. I used to be one. The swift, dramatic radicalization of the Republican Party during the Bush years pushed me to become a moderate Democrat. Moderate Republican has become an oxymoron.

The reason it’s a shame is that most Americans aren’t radicals. They aren’t wingers of any sort. They’re pretty middle-of-the-road. Some tilt right, others tilt left, but most average people you meet are pretty centrist.

And so it was a pretty big coincidence that Republican pundit Ross Douthat – formerly of the Atlantic – wrote his first op-ed for the New York Times today explaining why it was actually a shame that Dick Cheney hadn’t run against Barack Obama. The trotting out of John McCain – a pretty centrist Republican – to run against Obama has only emboldened the pro-torture Cheneyist wing of the party. He begins with the current conservative conventional wisdom:

We tried running the maverick reformer, the argument goes, and look what it got us. What Americans want is real conservatism, not some crypto-liberal imitation.

“Real conservatism,” in this narrative, means a particular strain of right-wingery: a conservatism of supply-side economics and stress positions, uninterested in social policy and dismissive of libertarian qualms about the national-security state. And Dick Cheney happens to be its diamond-hard distillation. The former vice-president kept his distance from the Bush administration’s attempts at domestic reform, and he had little time for the idealistic, religiously infused side of his boss’s policy agenda. He was for tax cuts at home and pre-emptive warfare overseas; anything else he seemed to disdain as sentimentalism.

This is precisely the sort of conservatism that’s ascendant in today’s much-reduced Republican Party, from the talk radio dials to the party’s grassroots. And a Cheney-for-President campaign would have been an instructive test of its political viability.

The reaction from many on the right to Specter’s departure has been an echo of that Cheneyist sentiment. Let him go, they say. Screw Specter. Start raising money for the guy from the right-wing Club for Growth who’s running as a Republican for Specter’s seat. Specter was a rat RINO and he and Olympia Snowe and any other so-called moderate Republican can go join the Democrats, too.

That’s fantastic. Cull them. Purge the moderates. Push them out of the remnants of Reagan’s big tent, and further render the GOP an irrelevant anachronism of a shell of a party. Regional in nature, extreme in policy. It is against what most Americans are for, and is for what most Americans are against. Even torture.

The Specter switch is fraught with peril for Obama because on paper, he can roll through whatever he wants now. But Specter will most likely be as independent-minded as ever, so assume nothing will be easy. But it’s nice that the Democratic Party has become the only one that will welcome centrists. Sen. Olympia Snowe calls the move “devastating”. Sen. Lindsey Graham said,

“I don’t want to be a member of the Club for Growth,” said Graham. “I want to be a member of a vibrant national Republican party that can attract people from all corners of the country — and we can govern the country from a center-right perspective.”

“As Republicans, we got a problem,” he said.

For comic relief, here’s the Buffalo Ruse’s take.

13 Responses to “And Arlen Makes 60”

  1. al l April 28, 2009 at 10:05 pm #

    honestly, im surprised that centrist Republicans hadnt made a move to leave the GOP and field their own center right party – perhaps taking a Democrat or two into the fold.

    though they would lack any chance at a majority, a centrist party block could easily become power brokers within the Senate. and lets face it, Americans love a rebel.

    pretty soon, it might come to this:

  2. Prodigal-Son April 28, 2009 at 10:54 pm #

    I consider myself a Rockefeller Republican (maybe like Pundit used to be).

    I have an honest question: Am I the last one left in the North East? On days like today, it feels like it.

  3. Russell April 29, 2009 at 7:11 am #

    The Northeast is still chock full of Rockefeller Republicans. It’s hilarious that two posts after BP makes the case that there’s no room for moderates in the Republican party and they’re all being pushed out, he posts how there are no conservative Republicans in Albany. I don’t know how it can be both ways. If the point is that the national party is too conservative while this state (and presumably many others) is very moderate, then what BP posted about the state party shows that the national condition is out of equilibrium and so that cannot last.

    Look, these things ebb and flow in the US. The Democrats went through the samething not all that long ago. It’s not the end of the Republican party. It’s just that this time the national party on the right has swung too far to the right, just as the left had swung too far to the left. In the near future, things will swing back.

    Sure, go ahead and enjoy it for now all you folks on the left, but don’t think this is a permanent thing or signals the demise of the right in this country. If you believe that, you have no grasp of history.

  4. Bill Altreuter April 29, 2009 at 7:50 am #

    The moderate Republican was essentially extinct by around the middle of Clinton’s first term. There were a few in zoos, and on game farms, and maybe a couple were kept as pets, but as a species they had passed the point where there was a sufficient available gene pool to survive into another generation.

    For what it is worth, Spector wasn’t such a moderate, but whatever.

    The Republican Party is so completely marginalized at this point that I think it is likely that an opposition party may form out of Blue Dog Democrats.

  5. hank April 29, 2009 at 8:19 am #

    Specter has voted with the Democrats for decades. All he’s done is prove he was scared of Pat Toomey, and refused to retire and relinquish his grip on his power in DC. Which makes him a Democrat by definition.

    After he voted for the Porkulus bill, any republicans in PA who still were loyal to him were lost. He knew he couldn’t beat Toomey again in the Primary, so he switched so he wouldn’t have to end his political career in a primary within his own party. Big face save there Arlen.

    He’s voted with the democrats so long it really doesn’t change the balance of power as he never voted the Party line anyway—just moves himself to the place where he’s been for 40 years.

  6. mike April 29, 2009 at 8:35 am #

    Oh thank you hank, so we already had the super majority? And we don’t want you pal joe lieberman back either!! Nice Rush language, reminds me of Valley Girls, no wonder your party sucks so bad.

  7. Russell April 29, 2009 at 9:51 am #

    All you did was highlight symptoms of the ebb and flow. Those problems of corruption and wild spending of symptomatic of the party in power. The less that power is checked, the worse the symptoms are. You’ll see it bounce back.

    Yes, it took the Republicans decades to regain the House and only years for the Democrats to do that, but the Republicans were certainly not out of power that entire time. They controlled the Senate for a good chunk of that period and the White House for the majority of it. It takes less than 48% of the national vote for Democrats to have a majority in the House, or over 52% for the Republicans. It’s easier for the Democrats to win, so don’t overstate House majorities. (see the book Cheap Seats for those figures and further explanation)

  8. Russell April 29, 2009 at 9:53 am #

    Oh, and let’s not forget that the district that Tedisco just lost was most recently represented by a Democrat. We know right here in Erie County that enrollment advantage does not always translate to electoral victory. Local issues and personalities can be much stronger.

  9. Starbuck April 29, 2009 at 11:24 am #

    No room for moderates? Moderates extinct?

    The 40 Repub senators are practically all moderates. Typical in ideology is Sen. Judd Gregg. He’s so moderate that Obama appointed him to a Cabinet position.

    Would Obama have appointed anybody not moderate to such a position? Impossible.

    Also typical are Grassley, Hutchinson, Alexander, Corker, Graham, … on and on and on, moderate after moderate after moderate.

  10. Starbuck April 29, 2009 at 11:32 am #

    swift, dramatic radicalization of the Republican Party during the Bush years…

    What didn’t I notice during the Bush-Hastert-Frist years when Repubs swiftly radicalized? In domestic policy didn’t those guys usually govern a little to the left of Clinton in some ways? (Medicare expansion, education spending, earmark growth).

    I recall GWB Repubs being mostly indistinguishable from their Dem predecessors. They agreed to McCain’s campaign finance reform in total, agreed to Kennedy’s education spending hikes, surged foreign aid to Africa, continued Clinton policies on NAFTA, China trade, and encouraging wider home ownership without serious credit requirements. They added a huge new middle class entitlement. They spent stimulus pork money like crazy (by standards of the time). They returned some fed tax rates to what they had been under that radical Bush-41.

    Oh yeah – the GWB Repubs rejected the Kyoto Treaty. No wait, that happened while Clinton was still president. And it was a 99-0 Senate vote, all the Dems and all the Repubs. Damn, thought I might have one there. 99 radicals, huh?

    Can anyone tell me what are examples of this big swift radicalization that happenend during Bush years and impacted Specter’s departure? What important issue positions were allowed for Repubs in 1999 that became banned during Bush’s years and pushed Specter out?

  11. Russell April 29, 2009 at 1:07 pm #

    That’s pretty funny considering that posters on the left, arguing the view of the left, quoted Jesus on matters of foreign policy and national security on here just the other day. Apparently there are some Democrats running around out there going all Jesus on people, too.

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