Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Change of political address


Sen. Arlen Specter. Democrat from Pennsylvania. Typing that will take some getting used to. As pretty much everyone knows by now, Specter has shucked off his Republican mantle and joined up with the Democrats. When the news broke, Democrats in D.C. spent a lot of their time smiling like Cheshire cats, while Republicans cast Specter as the second coming of Benedict Arnold. Did Specter finally have enough of the Republicans' "big tent" turning into a pup tent? Or did he do the politically expedient thing in the face of a likely loss in next year's U.S. Senate primary? The answer is: both. And Specter admits as much. "I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans," said the senator, while also noting "I am unwilling to have my twenty-nine-year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate." In 2004, Specter barely survived a primary challenge from Rick Santorum clone Pat Toomey, and if he had stayed in the Republican Party, a loss to Toomey next spring would have been highly likely. And then, a Toomey loss to a Democrat in the fall would have been a good bet. Now, the most likely outcome is a Specter victory over Toomey in next year's November election. Specter is a good politician, and he could read the writing on the wall. Republican leaders and donors, considering him too liberal (you know, a moderate who was willing to think for himself), were likely to abandon him for Toomey in the primary. "They (GOP conservatives) don't make any bones about their willingness to lose the general election if they can purify the party. I don't understand it, but that's what they said," Specter said Tuesday. It's the same type of thinking that essentially prevented John McCain from naming moderate Republican Tom Ridge as his running mate. Instead, he took the Moral Majority poster girl from Wasilla, and she turned out to be the village idiot. Specter's party switch left the Democrats in the Senate within reach of the 60 votes needed to stop a filibuster or remove holds placed by lawmakers on legislation or appointments. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky voiced the horror - horror, I tell you - of such a development. Said McConnell, "The threat to the country presented ... by this defection really relates to the issue of whether or not in the United States of America our people want the majority party to have whatever it wants without restraint, without a check or balance." Threat to the country? Really? I'm guessing that back in the late ’90s, when the Republicans had hopes of attaining those 60 votes, that McConnell would have been just fine with that. I don't think we would have heard a single peep from that political hack about a "threat to the country." And maybe McConnell got dropped on his head a lot when he was little, but one would think he is aware that, aside from Specter, the people - the United States of America voters - sent those Democrats to the Senate. It's called democracy, senator. If you don't like it, maybe you'd better take a good look at your own party and see where you are failing so badly that the opposing party could beat you like a 98-pound weakling and claim a supermajority. Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, one of the last of the dying breed of Republican moderates, took a look at the country's political shift and, unlike most of her colleagues, recognizes the party's central problem, and the solution. Snowe, writing Wednesday in the New York Times, bemoaned the party's loss of Specter and said, "In my view, the political environment that has made it inhospitable for a moderate Republican in Pennsylvania is a microcosm of a deeper, more pervasive problem that places our party in jeopardy nationwide. I have said that, without question, we cannot prevail as a party without conservatives. But it is equally certain we cannot prevail in the future without moderates. There is no plausible scenario under which Republicans can grow into a majority while shrinking our ideological confines and continuing to retract into a regional party. Ideological purity is not the ticket back to the promised land of government majorities - indeed, it was when we began to emphasize social issues to the detriment of some of our basic tenets as a party that we encountered an electoral backlash." In other words, the party suffered when it sold its soul to the right-wing religious crowd, and if the Republican Party wants to continue on that track, it will be increasingly marginalized as a force in American politics. Maybe the Democratic Party can continue to capitalize, but the leaders of that party have proven to be the idiotic equals of the GOP leadership. Maybe it's the Libertarians who will bear the fruit from the Republicans' planting of a spreading orchard of intolerance that would make a born-again Johnny Appleseed proud. If Republicans insist on "purifying the party," they do so at the risk of their own extinction. Snowe offers a simple road map to salvage the party's future, and it comes in the form of remarks from GOP icon Ronald Reagan. Said the Gipper: "We should emphasize the things that unite us and make these the only 'litmus test' of what constitutes a Republican: our belief in restraining government spending, pro-growth tax policies, tax reduction, sound national defense and maximum individual liberty. As to the other issues that draw on the deep springs of morality and emotion, let us decide that we can disagree among ourselves as Republicans and tolerate the disagreement." Better get busy with that tolerance thing. It hasn't been the party's strong suit of late.

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30 Comments:

Blogger Ellipses said...

Brant- it's nice to see you cast brevity aside and just lay out the whole shebang... It's unfortunate that it has taken THIS long for these discussions to gain any traction amongst party members.

Seems a bit like ordinary folk have been on to the issue for a bit now... I think we may even have brought it up now and then in these sundry web locations.

We can pat each other on the back and toot each others horns... but then we'd be homos and wouldn't be allowed back into the party as it exists now...

If I recall correctly... you were a young republican once, no?

I was a republican for the better part of this decade, too.

There are a lot of people out there far more conservative than you or me who aren't welcome at the table... and there simply isn't a mathematical path to relevancy if that tent continues to shrink... forget the tent... eventually, you are going to end up with Hannity and Coulter under an umbrella.

On the same note... it would be a shame to have only one viable political party in this country... for no matter the motivation, virtue, or logic behind a decision, it will still be a tyrannical decision.

But in the mean time, it will be fun to blame the demise of the republican party on Bush, too :-)

April 29, 2009 at 3:11 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

I was, indeed, a young Republican who worked as a high school student on the Nixon re-election campaign (Oh, the shame!). Honestly, other than that Watergate thing, I believe Nixon was a good president. Since then, I've voted about equally for Republican and Democratic candidates.

April 29, 2009 at 3:45 PM  
Blogger Dale Lolley said...

Here's the problem I see for Spector: He won't get any Republican votes in the next election - which won't kill him. But if you're a Democrat, do you trust him? He's already jumped ship once. It will be interesting to see who the Republicans run against him.
He seems much more interested in getting re-elected than serving his constituents.

April 29, 2009 at 3:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a Republican I am ashamed of where my party has taken me. I was actually told by a Republican activist that Barry Goldwater was no conservative. It is sickening and Limbaugh and his ilk are destroying my party.
I will remain a Republican and I am afraid of one party rule, but the new conservatives have no one to blame but themselves. I am pro life and a fan of the NRA, but I understand that I am have become a Republican first.

April 29, 2009 at 4:41 PM  
Blogger {cher} said...

i don't care what side the man is on. i'm not a fan. lol

April 29, 2009 at 4:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brant, E, Arlen and Olympia aren't Republicans and I am sure the Republican party isn't taking notes.

April 29, 2009 at 10:57 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

Good luck running for school board, then.

April 30, 2009 at 6:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I voted for Spector and I'm a Democrat. I hope that the majority of voters cast ballots for people whose beliefs align with their own, not just because they happen to be of the same political party. While Spector's move may be calculated, it took guts, just as it took guts for Joe Lieberman to go Independent a while back and to stump for McCain even though he caucuses with the Dems. I wish more politicians had guts.

April 30, 2009 at 8:57 AM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

While we are wishing for politicians to grow more organs, might I suggest an additional brain or two...

April 30, 2009 at 9:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...

I wonder if those two organs aren't mutually exclusive ...

April 30, 2009 at 11:55 AM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

Being gutsy is one thing... being right is another.

i think we have learned that recently.

April 30, 2009 at 12:03 PM  
Blogger Dale Lolley said...

I would have had a lot more respect for Spector had he just become an independent. In fact, he and Lieberman could have begun a trend of more moderates going independent and fostered the beginning of a new party.
Instead, he just sold out.

April 30, 2009 at 5:32 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

Would he have a shot at re-election if he became an independent?

Can't make a statement if you lose your podium...

April 30, 2009 at 7:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spector has been an independent for much of his political career. I don't know why this is such a big deal. The Republican party treated Spector like an unwanted pregnancy. So what if he changed parties. It's not as though he will be a lackey for the Democrats, because he wasn't one for the Republicans.

In an odd way, I think more politicians should be like Spector, a maverick who makes the decisions that he wants, not what the party wants. I think that's why I've voted for him.

May 1, 2009 at 9:01 AM  
Blogger Dawn Keller said...

I ask myself ... what changed to make Republicans not support him anymore? The latest poll numbers show that a significant majority don't plan to vote him in the state's primary. They voted for him in the past, knowing he was pro-choice and with his other "liberal" positions. It seems like his poll numbers started dropping rapidly after he voted for the federal stimulus package.
If he loses in the primary, becoming an independent and getting on the ballot for the general election requires something like 300,000 signatures. A very difficult task as best ...
I also think this decision is only about winning an election. He said himself that he looked at the poll numbers and doesn't want to be judged by the Republican voters in the primary. Because he knows he would lose. If his poll numbers were better, he'd still have an R in front of his name.

Call me a cynic ...

May 1, 2009 at 4:52 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

^ cynic

:-)

May 1, 2009 at 4:55 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

I don't think anyone can deny that there's a large dose of political opportunism at work here. But at the same time, one has to recognize that the Republican Party of today bears little resemblance to the party that Specter joined 30-some years ago.

May 2, 2009 at 6:41 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

Make that 40-some years ago. My math skills are lacking at 6:40 in the a.m.

May 2, 2009 at 6:43 AM  
Blogger Dale Lolley said...

Maybe that's the problem. Spector is just another political dinosaur who has lived off the public for the majority of his adult life.

May 2, 2009 at 5:22 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

The electorate has had multiple opportunities to kick Specter to the curb, but they've re-elected him every time. Certainly, there are huge advantages in being an incumbent, especially at the federal level, but even the most entrenched incumbents can be ousted if the public tires of them enough and/or the opposing party puts up a quality candidate. We saw that with John Pettit and Rick Santorum. And I think we could have seen that with Bill DeWeese and Jack Murtha if the GOP had offered stronger candidates to run against them.

May 3, 2009 at 9:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Time in office is not an problem in fact it builds power and the ability to move money to our state. Some states value this, PA has traditionally voted out our senior Senator with the result being a decrease in our states power in the federal government.
Brant is right that incumbency actually can be a problem if there is a quality candidate. The truth is that there are few people able to handle the public scrutiny and demands of public life that are willing to work for the low salaries (relative to the skills required) in public life.
Specter was pushed out by Limbaugh and his followers. It is the natural result of allowing an entertainer that is interested in ratings rather than political goals to run your party. When Michael Steele felt the need to apologize for taking on Limbaugh, it showed who was driving the ship.
The Republican party needs not to be rid of social conservatives as some have suggested from the left, but rid of radio hosts. Responsible social conservatives can be a part of the party.
What is most interesting to observer is that many of the dogmatic "dittoheads" are not church goers, they are not people of faith other than Limbaugh. Their personal lives are a mess, but they feel the need to attack and destroy their own party's members to fulfill a need in their own lives, to create something that is lacking. The result is a party in chaos, lead by a man with his own internal demons and desire for more ratings.
The party needs desperately to return to the days of Goldwater and Buckley's foundation, the idea that we are the party that will protect the public treasury, have a strong national defense and for the most part stay out of your life.
That is the foundation of a winning party with a broad tent. It can and should encompass parts of the NRA and pro-life movement, but it cannot encompass those parts of the Christian coalition that want to control free speech and such.
Freedom economically and politically must be the foundation of a conservative, not talk show hosts mouthing.
Anti-corruption, combined with lower spending, less taxes and more money for every American must be what the Republican Party should stand for.
But alas, the Grand Old Party is adrift on the sinking raft with Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck and Coulter choosing different victims from a willing group to see who should be thrown overboard.
Spector decided that enough was enough and since there was a big boat nearby rather than drown, he would take the safe way out.

BTW in PA we have a sore loser law, so he cannot run in the primary and then run as an Independent. That is why he made the decision he did, even if I disagree with it.

WR Fan

May 3, 2009 at 3:49 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

I agree with you almost completely, except on the abortion issue. It's a loser for the Republicans, and if they continue to use it as a litmus test for candidates and as part of the GOP's standard marching orders, it's a detriment to them. Now, if they feel it's too important an issue to compromise on, then that's their choice, but the Libertarians will continue to pick up more support as a result. A three-legged stool of God, guns and abortion will appeal to a segment of America, but not a large enough segment for the Republicans to thrive. It will play well in the South, but never in the Northeast and, it seems, not well enough in the upper Midwest, in the Southwest and along the West Coast. I'm all for reducing the factors that lead to abortions, but it will never be totally outlawed. Even if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned, there would still be many states that will continue to permit abortions. And the court fight would start anew, with perhaps a differently configured Supreme Court eventually turning back in the other direction. The Republicans can continue to tout their "values" (as if folks in the other party don't have any), but a return to real fiscal conservatism and national defense issues would do them the most good.

May 3, 2009 at 4:10 PM  
Blogger Dale Lolley said...

Don't just blame the GOP, Brant. How many incums even see a challenger in the primary. Given the state of the electorate in these parts, a Republican doesn't have much of a chance no matter who it is.

May 3, 2009 at 8:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Take a look at the politcal landscape in this area over the years and you will see why no credible candidates want to run against an incumbant. It's tantamount to flushing money down your toilet.

Two bozos in this area – Bill DeWeese and Jack Murtha – enjoyed large victories in the last election, despite suspicions that DeWeese was involved in the bonus scandal and Murtha was slipping into the first staged of Alzheimers after calling his constituents red necks and racists.

Why would any qualified person want to run against them when they see how their re-election is a foregone conclusion. That's why the only way they go out the door is feet-first or in handcuffs.

May 4, 2009 at 12:44 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

Murtha did, indeed, roll to re-election, but the campaign of his challenger, to the average voter, had to seem like nothing more than "I love me some America." As for DeWeese, you're wrong about his margin of victory. In the last two elections, DeWeese barely survived, despite facing a political novice whose grasp of the workings of state government seemed very tenuous.

May 4, 2009 at 5:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem with the abortion issue is that one of the two parties will gain those against it. Most people are not in favor of abortion on demand and it is not abortion as an issue that is hurting the GOP, but a group of the pro-life movement that want to regulate the REST of people's lives.
Nationally, pro-abortion (the adamant part, not silent) is about half the strength according to polling as the pro-life segment (again the adamant group)
12-6% the rest of the nation really doesn't care that much.
But when they regulate pornography, lifestyles and the rest the GOP gets into hot water.
Abortion became the buzz word for those that were interested in the other issues, but it was not the original issue that was the key problem, just some of the people that came with it.

May 4, 2009 at 10:16 AM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

Referring to a poll done in 2007...

16% of respondents favor abortion only to save the mother's life.

34% favor abortions only the case of rape or incest.

That's 50% right there who are fundamentally against abortion, but who would not go so far as to ban ALL abortions. Only 4% in that poll favored banning ALL abortions.

However, those 50% who were primarily against abortion, would technically be labeled pro-choice... and in the current atmosphere of republican politics, would be considered unfit to wear the little (R).

The % of people who are all gung-ho about abortions is MINISCULE... but the % of people who are in favor of SOME sort of choice is huge... that 50% was of people who were PRIMARILY against abortion... that doesn't even take into consideration the people who are PRIMARILY in favor of abortion being legal, regardless of the circumstance of the pregnancy.

So, there are 4% of people who are against every abortion that has ever occurred, regardless of circumstance... and whether it's true or not, THAT is the message projected by the right... "We are pro-life"

Not "We are pro-life EXCEPT for when the mother's life is in danger or if there was rape or incest..."

May 4, 2009 at 10:25 AM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

Followup--

A 2008 survey found 13% against any abortion at any time...

the 2007 poll was done by CBS. The 2008 poll was done by Marist College Institute of Public Opinion...

I imagine the true mean would fall somewhere between 4% and 13%...

Either way, excluding up to 87%-96% of the population outright is not a winning strategy

May 4, 2009 at 10:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Again it is about intensity of decision making. Political organizers know that it is about who will vote against you on the issue, not how people generally sound off on an issue.
This is the reason that the NRA has shown such political power. There are people that will not accept any restriction, just as there are those that want draconic restrictions on business for the environment on the left.
The 12-6% ratio I was speaking about was explained to be those people.
This is based on internal polling that has been done by people in both parties. Not general public opinion polling data that takes the issue as a whole.
You could argue that the Democratic party's acceptance of abortion as legal in all circumstances runs the risk of alienating 50%+ of the population also.
The idea is who would vote for against based on the issue, if I generally like the candidate but for this issue where do I side. Obviously the world did not change that much in the last 4 years. Bush was a lousy candidate, but managed to win with this issues, his hubris and weakness as a leader combined with the party moving away from core values of fiscal conservatism that they were elected to institute led to their downfall.
Those with political axes to grind wish to attack specific issues, those with goals of influencing the electorate are much less concerned with these issues but instead focus on what a winning coalition is or could be.


WR Fan

May 4, 2009 at 12:30 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

I don't buy that the lack of fiscal restraint is the primary reason for the GOP's downfall...

However... on your last point, re: a successful coalition-- This is a HUGE point. The republicans have made "conservatism" a pass/fail proposition... as a recovering republican, I came to the same conclusion as millions of people are coming to now... I am not welcome in the party.

I am very pro-abortion. It doesn't matter what I think about anything else... that fact along disqualifies me from hanging out in their tent.

I could be lock, stock, and two smoking barrels in line with the rest of conservatism, but my God, deviate on ONE issue... and it becomes the BIGGEST ISSUE FACING OUR GENERATION.

And they are interchangeable... Take someone who is 100% pro-life... to the point that he/she thinks that people ought only be able to own single shot rifles and shotguns because handguns and other weapons are too big a threat to LIFE which she values so deeply... well, gun control easily morphs into THE BIGGEST ISSUE FACING OUR GENERATION!

I have said for a while that if you went to another planet where the people speak English, understand our concepts, but have no familiarity with political parties... and you present a group of people (conservative republicans) as having x, y, and z views... broadly defined principles- not specific issues... and then you have the alien people pick what side of specific issues those people would support... they wouldn't reliably get them right...

Republicans are for:
Fiscal conservatism
Little government intervention in people's lives

And then you ask things like:
Would this party be open to cutting military spending?

Would this party want to amend the constitution to specify that men cannot marry other men and women cannot marry other women?

Would this party want to make it illegal for a woman to abort a pregnancy?

And our intergalactic friends would get both of those wrong...

Talk radio is pushing the conservative re-invention as small government, national defense, border security, and energy independence.

Ok, small government sounds good, but I have not seen a single actionable proposal as to how to make government smaller...

National defense... I take that to mean that the military's budget will never get smaller. It will grow into perpetuity.

Border security... How? A fence? a wall? armed guards, shoulder to shoulder?

Energy independence... How? Our oil vs our usage of oil does not mathematically allow us to drill out ourselves out of our dependence on foreign oil... and frankly, if you say "Solar Panel," I don't think "GOP"

The philosophy of the right is fine if they could just be consistent with it across the spectrum of the issues... but when a new issue perks up, I have a natural inclination to one side or the other... and more often than not, I am surprised by the right's reaction... What seems perfectly natural to me... in regard to how I feel about the US torturing prisoners for example... becomes a wedge that the right uses to suggest that I am unAmerican or some other BS label.

But beyond philosophy... they need to have an actual, actionable suggestion. How?

"Health care should be between patient and doctor."

Ok... How? Are you going to outlaw insurance companies? What if my doctor says that my new heart will cost a million dollars? You think I can haggle that down to something I can afford?

The tag line sounds good... but they haven't presented an answer to the "How?"

May 4, 2009 at 1:02 PM  

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