This week Senator Arlen Specter, after serving for the last 29 years as a Republican, switched his party affiliation to the Democratic Party. The question is: why? His assertion is that he has remained constant while everyone else in the Republican Party has moved steadily to the Right so that his ideals are no longer represented by the party.
His critics on the Right contend that he has betrayed the party for selfish practical purposes. Their argument is that he knew he could not win the Republican primary to be held next year, so he jumped ship to run as a Democrat.
Not to be lost in the finger pointing is the fact that with Al “Please Take Me Seriously” Franken poised to win his long-contested seat, Specter’s defection would give the Democrats a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. President Obama and the DNC will try very hard to convince you that this is just a coincidence, that Senator Specter did what he did because his principles demanded it. They took the unusual step of answering an unasked question by insisting that Specter will not be a “rubber stamp” and further asserting that there was no “quid pro quo”.
Those seemingly unnecessary denials taken together imply, to my cynical mind at least, that Specter was bribed by the Democrats (although not necessarily with the knowledge or consent of the President) to jump ship. Whether the bribery was in the form of under the table money, promises of campaign support, or a coveted leadership position on a powerful committee is unclear. I find it hard to believe, however, that his sudden change of heart was not influenced by the Democrat’s desire for an absolute majority in the Senate.
We’ll have to watch and see if there is a single instance in which Specter sides with his old allies on the Right, or if he acts as the “rubber stamp” despite President Obama’s claims to the contrary.
I personally don’t bear any ill will toward the senator. Really, I don’t. But as a political observer and a big fan of irony, I find myself hoping that he loses in the Democratic primary next year. It would be interesting to see where he’d turn next. Bull Moose Party, maybe?