Flash forward 44 years after that first run for office. Not only has Specter apparently quit fighting the good fight to make a minority party viable in Philadelphia, but with his second party switch on April 28—from a Republican to a Democrat—she has joined forces with a majority party on the brink of exercising complete control over Washington. Quite the difference.
According to Specter, the Republican Party is no longer the “Reagan Big Tent,” and he “now [finds his] political philosophy more in line with Democrats than with Republicans.” In truth, after being one of three Republicans in the entire Congress to vote for President Obama’s stimulus, Specter now trails former archconservative Pennsylvania Rep. and Club for Growth President Pat Toomey by more than 20 points in polls for Pennsylvania’s 2010 Republican Primary.
Despite his vote for the stimulus, with which I strongly disagree, I still supported Specter. I felt there was enough room in the party and in the national dialogue for its direction for both pro- and anti-stimulus Republicans. Sen. Specter thinks our tent has become too small—so apparently his solution is to eliminate his own dissenting voice from it, making it even smaller.
As a young Republican, I am more than frustrated with the state of national politics. We see President Obama shaking hands with Hugo Chavez, Democrats on the Hill moving forward with socialized health care, and Republicans losing a special election in a district in upstate New York despite a 70,000 voter registration advantage. We fight the good fight and try to articulate the cause—and what message does Arlen Specter send us when the going gets tough?
Earlier this week I read a remarkable article on Politico. Students and alumni of American University, many associated with their chapter of Young Republicans, have rallied together to oppose House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank as this year’s commencement speaker. “As young Americans across the country continue to lose their jobs and ‘rising’ college graduates struggle to find employment post-grad, should American University honestly be honoring a man who helped lead us and the world into a global economic meltdown?” their Facebook group asks, which at the time of this writing has over 160 members. In the face of overwhelming support for the Democratic president and his efforts, how does Arlen Specter back them up? By running away.
Differences between Specter and Republican Party orthodoxy notwithstanding, suggestions that the two have never benefited each other are unsubstantiated. As Glenn Greenwald points out in his article on Salon, Specter voted with the Republicans on most significant legislation over the past 8 years: funding the war in Iraq, the Military Commissions Act, the Patriot Act, the Bush tax cuts, and more. In particular, despite their differences, Republicans closed ranks to allow the moderate Specter’s ascension as Senate Judiciary Chair, hardly an inconsequential position, where he helped usher through both of President Bush’s Supreme Court nominees, John G. Roberts and Samuel J. Alito.
It is interesting how willingly Specter compromised his pro-choice views to rise to chairman. Kind of like how he first ran for Philadelphia district attorney as a Republican in 1965 because the Democratic Party establishment refused to back him. Once a turncoat, always a turncoat: in 2010, Specter will run as a Democrat simply following the path for his own election, regardless of any principle.
Sen. Specter, it’s not easy being a Republican today, especially in the face of Obamanomics, Obamamania, and Obama-whatever else on college campuses. When the going gets tough for us, we will rise to the occasion, like the students at American University. When the going gets tough for you, you get going.